I got a job at Apple! 

Dear Friend,

I’m fully aware how cheesy it is to want to work for a trillion+ dollar company. But before there was the iPad, iPhone, or even iPod, there was my very first Mac — a Blueberry iMac G3. I still remember that fateful day when my friend Tommy helped me unboxing it after school. I was so, so excited but neither of us could even locate the power button! And once we found it, we then spent another hour troubleshooting why the iMac kept crashing upon booting up (turned out it needed to update to OS 8.5.1). Anyways.

I’ve wanted to work at Apple ever since that day, and for so long it has only ever been a dream. I’ve lost counts of how many actual dreams I had about working there, and even more so how many times I’ve applied at Apple. The journey of these applications (and the hopes or dreams attached to them) would end the second I hit submit — into the void they went. It’s honestly more like lottery to me than anything else, but as my aunt once told me, “You’d need a ticket if you want to win the lottery.” Until a recruiter reached out to me one random morning…

My first day at Apple!

What’s actually more interesting to me now is to reflect on the chain of unexpected moments and people that had prepped me for a job opportunity like this. Honestly. If Tobin did not hire me at Research Now despite my lack of work experience in the US, I would not be able to find my footing and know my way around Salesforce. Then if Rick did not hire me at IGN to end my 10-month unemployment gap, I wouldn’t have learned how to put out fires across teams and realize “oh shit, there’s an actual role title for what I do and it’s called… a Program Manager?”

And lastly, If Chad did not hire me at Walmart, he wouldn’t have thrown truly random things at me to sort out (literally on day one right after new hire orientation) so I could meet everyone in the early days of WMG (now Walmart Connect) and to gain their trust. And if he didn’t know about my prior experience with Salesforce, one of those random things wouldn’t have been to work with Kenny — someone who (still scares the daylights out of me) gave me the space to grow and learn how to pull SQL queries, design Salesforce processes, Product Management, and eventually be able to talk the talk with Engineers as a TPM.

I don’t want to imply that this road’s been easy or straightforward. In between these milestones were full of tough moments where the best option was to cut my teeth and lean into the grit, in order to outlive the fires and learn to hope in hopeless times. It’s also true that this road hasn’t been all bad — through these thorny moments were very patient people who gave me space to grow and adapt. I’m lucky, and I’m humbled by their faith in me at times when I don’t necessarily have that in myself.

Looking back, there hasn’t been a job I felt qualified for on day one, and the imposter syndrome for this one is still running high. Just like I did when I started at Walmart, IGN, Research Now, Hallmark, hell even at being an RA back in college — an experience I truly believed was life-changing.

Times are so tough right now, but if a depressed, gay kid who grew up from one of the poorest neighborhoods in SF could dream and somehow stumble his way toward it years later… then maybe there is still room for us to dream today, knowing that Life may take us into a better tomorrow.

Love Wins

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Steve, Jobs, and everything in between

I’ve been thinking Steve Jobs ever since his abrupt resignation yesterday.

It’s not a good or bad thing, nor is it a happy or sad thought. It’s weighing on my mind because it unravelled a lot of things that I’ve been shoving to the mental back-burner for the past few months.

I reread his resignation letter again and again. Here are the exact words in case you haven’t read it yet:


To the Apple Board of Directors and the Apple Community:

I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come.

I hereby resign as CEO of Apple. I would like to serve, if the Board sees fit, as Chairman of the Board, director and Apple employee.

As far as my successor goes, I strongly recommend that we execute our succession plan and name Tim Cook as CEO of Apple.

I believe Apple’s brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it. And I look forward to watching and contributing to its success in a new role.

I have made some of the best friends of my life at Apple, and I thank you all for the many years of being able to work alongside you.

Steve

The fact that he used the word “unfortunately” has painted a negative tone to the entire letter. As much as I want to idealize the reason for his resignation is so he’s able to take a well-deserving break, I’m secretly afraid that it’s just my wishful thinking.

As an incredibly inward thinking person, someone who’s able to drown himself with his own thoughts, I’m in the pre-emptive stage of grieving. I’m not grieving about his life specifically, however inevitable it may be, but moreso as something important that’s been such a big part of my young adult life.

I didn’t follow — for a lack of a better word — Steve Jobs well until senior year of high school. I had no idea who he even was when I bought my first 333Mhz Blueberry iMac G3. The computer came with the hockey-puck shaped mouse that everyone seemed to hate except for me (the trick is to hold it at an angle.)

Then I started reading and learning more about my iMac, and eventually I stumbled on one of his keynote presentations online. I guess that was the first day to the rest of my life in a way.

Through his presentations, I learned to admire his salesmanship. His keynotes completely changed my thoughts on public speaking and the power of an effective presentation. As an insecure teenager, something that still rings true today, I admired his utter confidence in his products, even though the Macintosh marketshare was less than 3% back in the day. He taught me confidence and self-worth by not seeing his niche products as runner-ups, but as the BMWs and the Mercedes-Benzs among the rest of the crowd.

Over the years, I was there when Steve first unveiled Mac OS 9, the tangerine iBook G3, the original Airport, the 17″ Powerbook G4 with the first backlit keyboard, the future of Mac OS X, the unveil of the MacBooks, the “1,000 songs in your pocket” iPod, the “these three things are in the same device” iPhone and the “magical and revolutionary device at an unbelievable price” iPad. And from Cheetah to Lion, each release of Mac OS X also marked a specific year and experience in my life.

But it’s one thing to reminisce about the past and to make meaning from materialistic, mass-produced products, it’s another to realize the impermanence of something you hold dear and what that may mean in the uncertain future.

Steve’s liver transplant, his battle of pancreatic cancer, and his determination and passion to continue working are mental reminders for me to stay humble and grateful for what I have. I relate these reminders to think of my ongoing unemployment not as a sign of rejection or defeat, but as a rare opportunity to use this time to truly work on myself and to discover the things I’m most passionate about. It’s not easy to be optimistic for me, but I’m grateful to have the support I have from the many friends and family who I incessantly depend on.

Steve’s resignation yesterday, and the implication that it’s something health related, reminded me of all of this, as well as a plethora of once-buried feelings that’s again floating onto the top of my mind. His health inevitably reminded me of the severe health issues a close friend of mine is currently going through.

I don’t want to discuss too much about my friend, but the realization of the fragility of life is the most humble, human experience ever. It’s also absolutely nerve-wrecking. As kids we once thought we were special, invincible even, and as we grow up we learned humbleness and opportunities through successes and failures.

But it’s only this year where I’m slowly learning the meaning of hopelessness. As if watching a car accident at a snail’s pace where there’s nothing I can personally do to help. It’s the first time in my life where I have to witness something where there’s no solution for. Instead of seeing a ray of hope or the light at the end of the tunnel, all you see is a brick wall ahead of you.

I feel that way about my friend, and also about Steve. I guess that’s what I meant when I said I’m in the pre-emptive stage of grieving after all. I’ve learned a lot from Steve, but this is certainly the hardest lesson yet. And as much as I want to say I’m happy for his resignation and wish him the very best in his recovery, it’s still a sad day to see an era that hold such importance for me coming to a end. As much faith as I have in Apple and Tim Cook, Steve’s resignation is yet another nudge in my inevitable road toward adulthood.

How Nintendo tries, and fails, to be Apple

Nintendo apple logo

It’s apparent Nintendo wants to replicate Apple’s approach to product cycles. Tweak a product slightly on a regular basis, sell the product at a favorable profit margin (instead of a loss), starts printing money, etc; that has certainly been working well for Apple, and for the most part Nintendo has been successful with that strategy as well with Nintendo Wii (which is more of a GameCube upgrade, cynically speaking) and the Nintendo DS/DSi/XL series.

That is, until now.

The iPad 2 is a marginal update compared to the original iPad. Yes, it’s thinner, lighter, boasts two cameras, a bigger hard drive, and has a faster processor. But other than that, there aren’t any major differences compared to the original iPad. The product launched earlier this year with much fanfare and has been selling like hotcakes every since.

The 3DS is also an update to the already popular Nintendo DSi. It features a stereoscopic (3D) display, a more powerful processor, as well as a series of much-needed software refinements. Unlike the iPad 2, however, the product launched earlier this year to cold shoulders and hasn’t been selling too well. The press (and the general public, by proxy) has since deemed the product as a failure, to the point where Nintendo has announced today massive-cuts not only for the 3DS, but also on the salary of the company’s president as well as the representative directors in an attempt to please the increasingly-disgruntled shareholders.

Though, just to provide some sort of perspective, the Nintendo 3DS did sell 4.3 million units globally in the past four months. In contrast, the original Nintendo DS sold 5.4 million units in the same duration that was also over the holiday season. It’s also worth noting that this isn’t the first time Nintendo is slashing prices shortly after a product’s launch. They did the same thing with the Nintendo 64, Gamecube, and yes, the Virtual Boy.

Both iPad 2 and the 3DS were created as updates of a previously-successful device, but why did the outcome of these two devices vary so much? One of the signs point to the 3DS’s hefty $250 price tag. Unlike the iPad 2, where despite the marginal technical upgrade, the price remained the same from its predecessor. The 3DS, however, started off with a premium price-tag of $250, a sharp jump from Nintendo DSi’s $170. The price hike implies 3DS to be a completely new device (even though it really, really isn’t), but moreso it exudes arrogance: you’ll buy it no matter the cost.

Of course, the demographic for both companies is different as well. A $499 entry-level iPad is ultimately more affordable to a full-time working hipster living in San Francisco than it is for a typical middle-schooler who relies on his monthly allowance for a $250 Nintendo 3DS. But even though both companies have their own die-hard, loyal fanbase, Apple tend to create products that cater to their “I’m a Mac” demographic while Nintendo continuously ignore their fans in their new products in hopes to expand their market share. As a result, the blue ocean has never been colder.

Then again, every cloud has a silver lining. This recent price cut may just be the alarm call needed for Nintendo to stop their stubbornness and finally get some work done. From what I’ve seen of the next-generation game console, Wii U seems to be another “minor upgrade” product to the current Nintendo Wii. Yet from the single-touch, non-portable tablet controller to the limited Internet support, the console can be so much more if only Nintendo gets more aggressive with the product, instead of sugar coating their complacency with half-hearted “That’s not what we’re about” excuses as usual.

There can only be so many comebacks before consumers give up. Apple came back with the iMac and never looked back. Can Nintendo do the same?


Image courtesy of Nexus404.com

Video: E3 2011 Impressions

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Software Put Back in Focus in WWDC 2011

I really liked the WWDC presentation this year. It has been a while since Apple put the focus on software instead of using the spotlight to announce their latest iPhone or hardware lineup. This year, however, it’s all about the software with an adamant declaration that the PC age is over.

The presentation was separated in three areas: Mac OS X Lion, iOS 5, and iCloud.

Mac OS X Lion

Mac OS X Lion

Out of the three segments, I was most impressed with Mac OS X Lion. I’ve been a big skeptic with how Apple was going to seemingly marry iOS components while throwing away years of what Mac OS X was built upon. I thought the move to full-screen apps means sacrificing the ease of use and the multi-window-working nature that separates Mac OS from Windows.

But what I had forgotten was the arrival of Multi-Touch gestures. More than Exposé, more than the Windows Start menu, and certainly more than using alt/cmd-tab, gesture-activated Mission Control gestures look like it’ll be the de-facto way to navigate between screens and applications in Mac OS X Lion. Mission Control looks like a mash-up of Exposé and Spaces, which I applaud Apple for combining two key features in the sea of has-beens pet projects. (Anyone still remembers Widgets or Sherlock?)

Mac OS X Lion will only be available via the Mac App Store, which is bad news for me since I’ve been looking forward to upgrading my MacBook from Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger to Lion. According to Apple’s site, it seems like the only way that’s going to happen is if I upgrade to Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopord first, before upgrading to Lion via the Mac App Store.

iOS 5

iOS 5

I have a feeling we haven’t seen the killer feature of iOS 5. Don’t get me wrong, the features covered are definitely welcomed, if not necessary. But showcased features like the Notification Center, camera, calendar, and PC-free setup seem so reactive instead of proactive. Specifically speaking, these features are all reactive to what Android is already doing. What ever happened to “Others are busy just to catch up to this version, and we’re going so much farther in our next version”?

That said, iMessage and Newsstand is what I’m most interested in. What will iMessage do to Texting plans as we know it? What will eventually happen to the concept of email if we can now send text, videos, contacts, locations and more instantaneously?

Newsstand is important because this can take Apple where the iBooks Store hasn’t. Amazon Kindle is great for reading books thanks to its e-ink technology, but magazines are designed to be flipped, skimmed, and tossed, and the color-richness nature of magazines is where the iPad will shine.

iCloud

iCloud logo

Apple made a huge deal about this, but I just can’t seem to care all that much. Steve Jobs revised his analogy of a digital hub he once used for the iMac years ago and is now applying it iCloud, declaring this “the post-PC age.” I understand what Steve is saying, but I just don’t find his presentation to be anything new.

Maybe it’s because I’ve already have all my information living “in the cloud.” I’ve been a MobileMe customer for years and already have all sorts of information pushed to me automatically. On top of that I also use Dropbox for my documents, Amazon Cloud Player for music, and Gmail as my primary email.

What’s missing for me is how iCloud is different from anything I just mentioned. Unlike the original iPod or iPhone in that even though they were not the first products introduced in their respective markets, those devices also offered groundbreaking features that we hadn’t seen before: a 4GB hard drive for the original iPod, multi-touch display and revolutionary music app for the iPhone. Instead, iCloud looks like a me-too product. The only thing interesting I saw in iCloud is that it is ad-free and free; certainly a jab to Google.

iTunes Match

Steve’s “One More Thing”. Too bad I just don’t get it. Basically it’s $24.99/year to convert all my non-iTunes purchased songs to DRM-free 256kbps AACs. But why is it on a per year basis? Does that mean the second I stop paying, all my songs will revert back to non-iTunes status? If not, can’t I just pay for one year to convert all my songs to paid status and have it pushed to my devices from that point on?

Also, does the $24.99/year price tag means I can now pirate unlimited songs since iTunes Match will change to legal, iTunes status anyways? Is that why they’re charging iTunes Match on a yearly basis, because piracy will never go away? The concept of iTunes Match just doesn’t seem very well thought out.

What did you think of this year’s WWDC? What are you most looking forward: Mac OS X Lion, iOS 5, or iCloud? What are your thoughts on iTunes Match?