We’ve all heard stories of how folks have gone on these amazing traveling experiences, maybe swam with dolphins, did some insane yoga moves on the edge of a cliff, or enjoyed a pastry at a Parisian cafe with views of that famous monument. But the craziest, most incredible part of their story: either their flight or their hotel was free, or even both!

And whenever you ask them how they did it, they would usually something like “my points, of course!”

Umm okay…

I’ve always been a cash-back-credit-card kinda guy as I felt I can do more with straight up, cold hard cash then I could do with points. And, I always booked my trip three weeks to two months before my departure date using search engines like Hipmunk, which always showed me lower prices than the credit card travel portals. So, why would I trade in $1 for a mile or a point, which was sometimes worth $0.01?

But as I kept on hearing more stories, and even signing up for Bryce Conway’s American-focused points blog 10x Travel, my curiosity now reached a point of no return: I needed to try this!

So being who I am, I decided to try a 1-year experiment where I would ditch my cash back credit card for a points-based one. This post will detail how I ended up in Bali for free(ish).

 A little warning…

Before we continue, you must promise me you’ll only try what I’ve done if and only if you meet the following conditions:

  1. You’ve got a Very Good credit score right now: 725 or higher. Here are some places you can check out your score for free in Canada: CreditKarma, Borrowell.
  2. You are not in debt.
  3. You will NOT spend more than you currently
  4. You know I’m not a financial expert/guru, and I’m not accountable for your actions

Okay, now that we’re done with the legalish stuff, let’s jump in!

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I was recently talking to Europe-based FinTech startup who were looking to hire their first Product Manager (PM), and they wanted this potential PM to be based in New York (NYC) rather than in Europe with the rest of the company. Their rationale was logical: the majority of their current and potential clients are in the US, particularly in NYC since they operate in the Financial realm, and they wanted that PM to be as close to their customers as possible.

This situation got me thinking that they have three potential options:

  1. Option A: Hire an NYC-based PM who can readily and easily travel to customer sites (current plan)
  2. Option B: Move the product team and/or the company to the US
  3. Option C: Hire a Europe-based PM to be collated with the company in Europe

Ideally, the entire company should relocate to where the majority of its customers are, especially since the company is quite small at its stage.

Relocating the company would provide two enormous benefits:

  1. The team is together
  2. You are near your customers

But let’s say, for some reason, relocating the company (Option B) is out of the question. Should the startup continue as plan and hire an NYC-based PM so that the PM is close to their customers (Option A), or should they hire a Europe-based PM to that the PM is close to the product team?

Based on my experience, I would strongly recommend hiring a Europe-based PM and here’s why:

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Actually, there are two equally strange pieces of advice I got. One was when I was 15 years old or so, and I joined a DJ pool (think of Birchbox for vinyl, but you get vinyl records 1-6 months before they go on the radio), and the manager of the pool told me “don’t f*** up!”…in front of my dad. I still don’t understand why he said that…

But we’re here to discuss a more relevant piece of advice I got…

I had to do a total of 6 co-ops/internships as part of the University of Waterloo’s Engineering program. One of these co-ops was at NexJ Systems as a Professional Systems Consultant in 2009 where I helped customize financial CRM software for clients.

It seemed like I got chummy (although I didn’t think this was the case) with a manager (whose name we will leave out) and he told me this:

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Really?

 

Seriously? Why? Why? Why?!

Usability testing is such a simple activity yet so crucial to getting designs and products right, yet we hardly do it even though we talk about its importance (yes, sometimes I fall into that group).

What scares people off of usability testing is the amount of work involved. Often, we think we must find a small sample of our target audience or users to test on. Although that is the ideal way to conduct usability testing, this can often be hard to do for a number of reasons:

  1. It’s hard to find a group of people to test with
  2. It’s hard to get people’s time
  3. It could be hard to set up (Do I need to build a prototype? Do I have the time and resources to do that?)
  4. There is not enough time, there are deadlines to meet and the engineering team needs to start building
  5. There are so many other things you need to move on to

Clearly, there are some obstacles in the way. But nonetheless, usability tests helps us ensure we are building something in the right way. You may have a great idea for a feature and think you have a great design for it, but until you have somebody use it and show you they can use it, it isn’t anything useful or worthy to brag about.

So how can you do usability testing to ensure your great design is truly great even though you don’t have the time or the ability to access your users?

There are two quick ways:

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In my short Product Management career, I’ve had the fortunate opportunities of working in the personal health and book industries: my first job was helping people lose weight and maintaining their fitness + wellbeing, while my second one was making books more accessible in America.

Not bad…

I often think/dream about the future, and it’s really an exciting time to start thinking about the future. There’s a lot of cool things happening out there that are going to shape the future, but the three most exciting emerging fields for me are UAVs, IoT, and 3D Printers.

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I’ve been thinking of starting a blog for over a year. Week after week, I would tell myself that during the upcoming weekend I would sit down, install WordPress and start typing. But I never did.

I love understanding people and the real (and sometimes ugly) reasons people think and behave the way they do. Understanding yourself (thoughts + behavior) is scary and difficult, but once you confront yourself, you get to know yourself better, and you start to truly appreciate who you are and what you are capable off.

So after confronting (or soul-searching) myself, I found out the real reasons why I was delaying creating this blog. I thought:

  1. People don’t care what I think, and
  2. I don’t know anything

Pretty grim right?

But alas, if you are reading this blog, how how did I overcome my insecurities? What magic potion did I drink that gave me this confidence?

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This is my first blog post and so I thought I would go big! Why say Hello World when you can say Hello Universe!

Wondering why I started this blog? Well wait no more! Here’s why:

1. Getting my thoughts in order + releasing them

As we get more and more connected to the world universe, a lot of cool, and sometimes not so cool things come to our attention whether it’s design patterns, product development processes/frameworks or useless crap.

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