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what it has been all about

October 31st, 2007 (12:52 pm)

So for the past 6 months, i've been consumed with the development of Runaroo.com, my social networking site.

It's going to be an online tool and community site for joggers.

Why am I interested in this segment? Because I am a casual runner myself. And through the miles and miles of running, I learned that running, unlike other sports, is truly a remarkable personal journey that can be captured online, and monitored and shared through a social website. With the millions of runners hitting the pavement or treadmill day in and day out, there is much to be exchanged and discussed surrounding each runner's journey.

If you've ever visited a discussion board for runners, it is one of the most active and supportive boards found on the internet. Participants are sharing or discussing any bit of their emotion and experience of running. The comaraderie and support network on these boards is impressive, given that nobody knows who the other is in person. These people openly help or seek support in achieving a goal through running, and through it, trigger discussion threads on personal life stories, workplace topics, family issues, in addition to fitness topics. The activity of discussion boards for runners is my cue that there is an opportunity to create a community site here with a very large membership base.

The How -
Runaroo will design one of the most user-friendly sites for this niche audience.



If a site can provide the perfect medium to capture that, it can be of value to the millions and millions. There isn't a site that

Its an opportunity to launch a site that is vastly improved and more interactive from competitor sites.

Runaroo will target casual runners, as opposed to the more serious runner who is focused on improving speed and time.

Runaroo provides helpful tools to focus on your running self, and then lets you gradually interact more and more with runners similar to you.

Runaroo helps you become more inspired and motivated to run.

I'm back..

October 31st, 2007 (12:27 pm)
contemplative

current mood: contemplative

well, hopefully. If there's one thing I've learned about myself over the years, it's that I can get pretty excited about something quickly and jump right into it, but only to lose its steam just as quickly.

So here's where I'm at in the past year and half since I've written in this blog.

I'm currently unemployed, but working on my online venture which is to be a social networking site for runners. I plan on blogging more about it to get my thoughts laid out more clearly, as inspired by the founder of Path 101, who also is writing a blog detailing his startup. I've had an private Alpha version released last week, and am rigorously testing it out. My designer (whom I met at Digitas) is halfway though on the Visual design of it, while my super duo developers are fixing bugs and prepping to start on the next features to develop.

I spent the the past summer in its entirety working on the site. But also surfing and taking as many trips as possible.  I needed those trips to recover, as what a year at Digitas it was. There were more downs than ups unfortunately there, combined with very intense, long hours, and  unrewarding work.

A year at Digitas was enough for me. I've concluded that I'm never going to back to the agency world.

Belated entry, but so much has happened at work

April 13th, 2006 (10:24 pm)

It has been over a month since my last entry, and so much has happened.

I presented the PM Assessment to Michelle, and she was very impressed with the results.

Shortly after, I was put on the Unilever digital account, and immediately hit the ground running in managing change requests for Unilever's Wisk and Snuggle website.

During this time, Digitas got in touch with me, and I began my 4 week long interview process with them for a Manager position in their Delivery Management group.

In Unilever, I began applying a more formal process for managing the schedule, resource, priorities, and speed for the design and development of the change requests.

I was given the offer for the Manager position with Digitas last Friday. Since then, I've been struggling very hard with what to do, as I've also grown to like the people at Draft very much.

I met with Michelle to discuss this struggle, and asked for her advice on what I should do at this point in my career. After our discussion, she went straight to HR and had them contact me to discuss this matter.

Draft's HR presented me a full-time offer today in response to what Michelle told them, this coming a month early as my freelance contract had another month left.

All this in a single month.

identifying PM skills for digital offerings....

March 7th, 2006 (06:26 pm)

So that project I was excited about kicked off Thursday. I’m to interview various PMs on the CA (Computer Associates) account and within the Draft Digital/Interactive team to glean as much information about what they do, what their job demands of them, and what makes them successful with what they do. Pretty interesting so far, but what I’ve discovered the most is that there really isn’t much interactive/digital work here. Status quo is that they work on banners, email templates, and static landing pages. So as far as PM principles, the work that’s required doesn’t necessarily require much PM skills, but more coordination and managing volumes of information in formats that others can pick up on.

DM as number one ad spending medium

February 28th, 2006 (03:15 pm)

Direct Mail is the number one ad spending medium as published by Ad Week, and Draft is the #2 agency in that vertical category. Good to know I'm in a promising area of ad work.

Interactive/Internet saw the biggest ad spending jump of all mediums, with a 21.3% jump. This follows up on other articles I've read about more and more marketing money being focused in digital mediums.

http://www.adage.com/news.cms?newsId=48009

Promising news for me at work..

February 24th, 2006 (01:32 pm)

In an ops briefing from Michelle this past Tuesday, she had mentioned that we might see some increased digital offerings in future work for client. I immediately took a curiosity, and wrote an email to Michelle asking her more about what that meant, and told her of my background in ecommerce.

Well talk about basic networking benefits, because two days later, she had a meeting with our VP Ops Linda Wu that included talk on digital offerings, and Michelle brought up my name.

Afterwards, Michelle stopped me in the hallway and told me that she'd like to meet with me and Deb (my supervisor) next week to have me make some headways into prepping ops for future digital offering works. I would begin by constructing a skillset matrices, focusing on skills in Project Management with specialty in Digital/Interactive area.

Now I know that in the advertising and marketing world, alot of Digital/Interactive stuff falls on the creative aspect of the front-end. So i'll have to brush up a bit on that as my background is in back-end features and system integration. However, upon browsing some interactive agency sites like Razorfish, I found out that this work may include back-end stuff as well such as integrating an upgraded content management system, or integrating an e-commerce site with other systems to improve certain business processes that eventually may help push site visiblity and sales.

Anyhow, I hope to gain some insight into digital offerings as it applies to the marketing world all before the meeting next Thursday. It's an opportunity for me to utilize more of my background, and apply it in an area (advertising/marketing) that I've always be intrigued with. It's also something that I know I'd like to be a part of and eventually lead.

Campaign costs and variances.

February 22nd, 2006 (11:33 pm)

Today our Director of Operations gave a presentation to us Project Managers on how the agency will be headed towards applying certain technology tools to monitor project budget, with focus on variance of FTE of a task and its labor cost.

On the big picture, what they are aiming for is to better "commoditize" campaign bids. In other words, after enough monitoring of projects, analyzing root causes of variances, and making adjustments on the standard for which the variance is compared to, the agency will be able to make better bids knowing the standard amount of hours different types of campaigns have taken in the past.

The practice of a PM monitoring a project's variance and actual vs. forecasted budget is standard PM practice, however, the significance in this case I believe is in allowing the company to monitor and control the cost of its operations from account to account, and one campaign to another campaign, something she pointed out is not widely practiced in agencies. An analogy is if you think about a car manufacturer, it knows its cost to churn out and sell each car. The price of the car is determined by market pricing factors. However, to increase the gross margin, they can reduce the cost of each car sold through cost cutting measures. Streamlining efforts aside, it can set some solid cost savings goals because the cost of each car sold is exactly the same. So just as the car is to its car manufacturer, so is a advertising campaign to its ad agency. Michelle and the ad agency is embarking on a mission of "commoditizing" the cost of each type of campaign. Much like the car manufacturer, it will allow for two things, provide better information on price range of its bidding so the agency can better forecast that campaigns profitability, and allow for project cost streamlining measures based on established cost standards from the monitoring of previous campaigns.

In all, I think it's pretty standard stuff. However, I think there's a big obstacle between getting to all that, and that is the problem of not having true Project Manager roles in the agency. Project plan aside, we have no authority or involvement in the Creative process and the Production process at the agency. We are mainly tracking down dates and efforts for those areas and filling in the blanks on the Project Plan. So the problem is, we can track the variance of each of our campaigns, but lets say there is variance in the Creative tasks or Production tasks? What can the PM do about it without any authority or involvement in their processes? So yea, we can monitor and be like great, there is variance. But shoot, there's nothing we can do about it. What good then is all that Michelle talked about above then? Well, I guess one thing is that at least the variance is tied to financial figures, and with the backing of that, they'll have a better case in telling Creative or Production that the PM needs to get involved and help streamline certain tasks. That would be huge, and would greatly expand the role of this PM to a true PM role.

I also met with my boss today, just for her to answer any questions of mine as I've been here about two weeks now. It was our first meeting since I joined. I came out of the meeting mainly with two things. I've confirmed that this role is not a Project Manager role, but more of whats called a campaign implementor role. Secondly, to go above and beyond, she wants to see ownership of the process and everything else in our campaigns. So if there are problems, be proactive about it. Meet with the AEs, or other resources to draw up lessons learned, etc.

Lean Six Sigma

February 20th, 2006 (02:36 am)

I picked up kind of a like a Lean Six-Sigma for dummies type pamphlet to read because I know it's something they are doing in our group, and I wanted to have an idea of what was talked about if the subject came up. Going through it was quite stimulating actually, and as a result, some thoughts occured to me concerning areas of improvement in what I've seen of the work so far:

- During drop ship date, how long does it take to mail out say 1 million people? Is it days? Weeks? In thinking back to Just-In-Time concepts, if it takes several days to mail out to all 1 million people, then Draft may not need to deliver the entire extract all at once to UHG, since it'll take them several days to process anyways.

- If above holds some truth, then extract scheduling may be worth revisiting. Currently each campaign reserves an entire day to execute its extract in full. Then the next day another campaign's extract, and the next day, another campaign's. The reason they take the entire day is cuz the extract size is huge, like 1 million. Well, the big question though is must we do the entire extract of a single campaign all in one day, if it's going to take UHG several days to mail out the ads? Why can't we give them only as much as they can mail out each day?

- If that cuts the extract amount of each campaign by a significant size per day, then maybe multiple campaign extracts can be scheduled on the same day. One benefit is that you now have a flexible extract calendar, because you have extra slots to do campaign extracts each day, and if one campaign is delayed and cannot do its extract that day, it can simply be penciled into a later date with less difficulty, and campaigns that arrive on its extract date earlier can be moved up to earlier extract dates.

My first full week of work

February 16th, 2006 (11:59 pm)

I've spent the week meeting more people. Unlike the way I've started off in other jobs, I've put more emphasis on relationships rather than on getting up to speed in my work as quick as possible. I'd still like to get to know my direct boss and her boss, the Director of Operations, but I figure that will come more with time, when I've started on my own projects.

So this week, after reviewing project plans in detail, I'm starting to understand the components of a direct mail marketing project. It's really a very straightforward effort, though the number of tasks are numerous. If related to the IT world, the size and difficulty of these projects are similar to front-end web enhancements, which are straightforward and quite simple. And because it's much simpler than any application development project I've worked on in the past, yet with the salary I'm being paid, I think the reason for hiring me goes beyond simply having me run individual projects. However, what those reasons are I'm still not sure. I think for the time being, they just want me to prove myself by running a few of these projects first, which I'm perfectly fine with.

I've also focused on getting to know the client's insurance products. Unlike consumer products, insurance is hard to understand, and full of jargon that will have you looking up definitions half the time. I met with the Compliance Manager of our account Marilyn, and spent an hour going over her role and how it fits into the scheme of projects. Her knowledge of insurance products is profound, a level which I would never have expected from someone working at an ad agency. Her role is to make sure that all communication materials are within compliance of laws and regulation, that nothing is wrongly stated about any insurance products and its details, and that they are not misleading to the audience. Of course the client has their own compliance people to review this stuff before the materials are actually sent out, but Marilyn is Draft's internal compliance check so that we can catch things earlier in the review process. Moreover, it's to reveal less mistakes we've made to the client, so that Draft's image to the client is upheld.

I'm getting more and more motivated by the day to really set myself on a long-term course to getting promoted. It's good to feel this way again, and to feel the ambition of old coming back to me again.

(no subject)

February 9th, 2006 (02:43 pm)

forgot to mention some things in the earlier entry.

I noticed a striking difference between the culture of an ad agency and that of an IT-oriented company, and that is the liveliness of the people. People are more outgoing and friendly.

Also, I was at a pep meeting today if you will, where the President of Draft global was speaking directly to all the people on the UHG account.. and he said, we need to cut each other some slack to ease the tension in the group. If we all work on our relationship with each other and with our peers, our work will gel much better, our work place will be a more fun place to be, and our delivery will improve. He didn't say it in those words, but something like that. Anyways, never ever ever have I heard such words spoken from management in an IT-oriented company. Very different. I kinda liked it. People first.

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