Why I’m at NetApp

Making the move from BlackBerry/QNX was not an easy decision to make, so many great people and a ton of great work being done on the IoT products.  However, NetApp’s appeal to me is their concept of the Data Fabric.

It dawned on me while while working on an IoT cloud that Enterprise customers will be accumulating massive new datasets that reside on premise behind the firewall, in the public cloud or private clouds.  Giving customers the ability to easily manage their data across all three of these data locations is of high value, indeed it’s also high risk but high rewards if done well. Delivering on this customer scenario is absolutely what we’re working on here at NetApp.

Our first products for the cloud now reside in the Amazon AWS Marketplace, current customers will see product names that they know and use today.  However, this is just the first step towards delivering on NetApp’s Data Fabric vision, and while our customers can now use the same OnCommand data management tools to now manage their Data Fabric across all three data locations there’s much more to come.

I’ll be writing more about what we’re up to here, as well as what I see from my new seat out in the Ecosystem.

With a New Year, a new focus

Beginning in the New Year I’m moving on from my role at QNX Software to both a new role and a new employer. I’ll discuss my new Ecosystem focus once I’ve settled into role in the new year.

I want to say thank you to so many people at both greater BlackBerry/QNX and the best Community I’ve had the pleasure of working with during my career. It’s been a great pleasure and honor to work with so many of you around the world over the last three years. I leave with great memories and proud of the accomplishments that we all achieved together.

Please keep in touch, I know that we’ll all run in to each other again out in the Ecosystem.

Happy Holidays and a Great New Year to you all!

How’s it going? Better than we ever admitted.

Up until this week, we’ve reported that our BlackBerry 10 App Ecosystem was the fastest growing for a new smartphone OS launch, namely 70K apps at our announcement, and 100K a month later by the time actual phone hardware shipped.  This week, we announced our growth rate continues, we’re up to 120K Z10 apps available in our BlackBerry World catalog today.  Impressive work by our great Ecosystem, 50K apps added since BlackBerry 10 announce!

This however is only part of the story.  Yesterday my boss Alec Saunders disclosed the other half, when you combine all the apps the team acquired last year, it’s over 250K apps for BlackBerry 10, BlackBerry OS (our old OS) and PlayBookOS!  This is in one year, with the same team, both launching a new platform and continuing to work with existing app developers.

What did we learn during this last year?  I’ve already covered many of the lessons here on my blog, but in this case much of the credit for BlackBerry OS goes to our great worldwide BlackBerry Developer Community, who’s commitment to share their BlackBerry OS expertise with others was truly outstanding.  Many of these Community members are part of our BlackBerry Elite, recognizing the top BlackBerry App Developers around the globe.  So, without working closely with our Developer Community, this last year would never have been possible.

Investing in your community pays multiple dividends.  They are your best advocates and Evangelists, and by investing in them, they will reward you with strong support like we saw at BlackBerry.  Do you have a Community recognition program?  If so, do you talk to them every week?  And more importantly, are you listening, they’ll tell you how things are really going out in your Ecosystem.

Technical Evangelists: Forces of Nature or Products of Nurturing?

I’ve been having a fun on again, off again background discussion with a few super experienced Technical Evangelists (TE) about whether it’s possible to train someone to become a successful TE, or are they really born with the skills in the first place?  Truth be told, I think we all agree it’s a little of both, but, there’s not a simple “it’s nature” or “nurture” answer.

When I think back over my own experience, each Evangelism or Ecosystem org I’ve been in has required a different mix of skills based on the type and release stage of the product, maturity of the ecosystem and whether the team itself is new or existing.   Because of this, it’s hard to describe an exact profile of the TE you need to hire and what to look for in the wild, or even what skills to help them polish up.  I also realize, this is probably a multi-part post, today I’ll describe a general background profile that I commonly see in my most successful evangelists.

  • Development skills – this is a given, all my TE’s are first and foremost experienced developers, maybe not just of mobile apps or services, but are highly technical.
  • Connectors – ala Gladwell’s Tipping Point book, they participate in people oriented things, meetups, groups etc.  Usually they lead one or more of these group activities and are known in their locale for doing so.
  • Entrepreneurs – my most successful TE’s have either been a founder of or have run a startup, which makes them well suited to talk to other startup devs or startup wannabes.
  • Social media – they constantly use these tools for info sharing and ideas are the principal currency of exchange in their  interactions via social media.

You probably noticed I don’t look for individual skills like “public speaking”, “great PowerPoint” ability or “sales” skills, these are skills that can be polished.  Sure, the candidate needs to be able to do stand up talks, but, if they are “connectors” they’re already doing this, albeit maybe to smaller crowds than my team typically addresses.

So back to my conjecture, are they born this way or is this learned?  I think from the profile it’s clear that it is both, learned skills and experience and a predisposition to work well with others.

When you’re looking at the resumes in front of you, have a framework in mind to quickly assess whether this person is a great developer, a great networker and a business builder.   If you check off all three, my guess is you’ve found a great candidate for your next TE.

In the US & ROW, Software Engineers in high demand

Like many of you, we at BlackBerry are competing to hire great Software Engineers in our locations around the world.  So, it’s worth noting just how in demand they are, in this report from US Labor Department data makes it pretty clear:

Electrical engineering jobs declined by 40,000 in the first quarter, and the unemployment rate in the category rose to 6.5%, based on an analysis of U.S. Labor Data by the IEEE-USA.

At the same time, the data showed that jobs for software developers are on the rise. The unemployment rate for software engineers was 2.2% in the first quarter, down from 2.8% in 2012, IEEE-USA said. Some 1.1 million software developers were employed during the first quarter.

What’s surprising to me is the increase of the unemployment rate of EE’s, given the growth of embedded devices one would suppose there would be a corresponding growth in hardware design skilled engineering as well.

In an earlier post I discuss all the countries we’ve received BlackBerry 10 apps from, as well as meeting with University officials, Computer Science is a highly sought degree everywhere in the world, hope to see it gain in popularity among US students.

Our takeaway as evangelists is to make our programs accessible to students and work closely with University Computer Science departments.  One example, we’ve found that hackathons are very engaging for students, and that working with student or University organizations make hackathons way more attuned to the students than our stand alone events and have been great sources for recruiting as well seeing all the great innovative app ideas.  This is good news for the Ecosystem.

What a difference a year makes!

Thanks for all the kind email today from industry friends around the world both old and new, yes, BlackBerry’s back in the fight as evidenced by today’s quarterly earnings report.  I for one am glad our BlackBerry CEO Thorstein Heins could actually say the word “profits” in a sentence today.

That said, reflecting back on a year ago and the situation at hand through the lens of an Evangelist, what did we accomplish in an open letter:

1) Built a world class Evangelism team.  This includes our HQ technical team, marketing and operations, as well as my WW team of Technical Evangelists.  As I’ve stated before, the team must be strong, and ours is built of achievers.

2) Imbued in ourselves and our community a shared sense of purpose.  Yes, it started with the Team BlackBerry Developers, but, we worked together with this strong core to “grow the bubble” of “those in the know” about BlackBerry 10.  One piece of evidence, over 55% of our sales are to folks moving off one of our competitors platforms.  We also saw that the developers on these other platforms began targeting BlackBerry 10 months ago, it’s true, developers are the early indicator of platform health.

3) Continue to invest and innovate.  We don’t plan to let up on the gas pedal, I’ve discussed the team innovating rapidly, this next year will not be any different, we’ve merely entered the next phase of our plan and will continue to drive innovative approaches.

4) Shipping is a feature.  My final big thank you is to our colleagues in Product Engineering for working the late nights & weekends, hope we did you guys proud.  Thanks for all the SDK releases, this was key for all the early developer engagement.

Thanks again, it’s been a great and at times unbelieveable year for the Developer Relations Group at BlackBerry and we look forward to seeing you out in the Ecosystem.

iPhone most vulnerable platform, for now

BGR reports that iPhone is more vulnerable than Android and Windows Phone and BlackBerry, snippet follows:

A new report suggests that Apple’s (AAPLiPhone is more “vulnerable” to attacks than Android, Windows Phone and BlackBerry (BBRY) smartphones. According to a study from SourceFire, the vast majority of all mobile phone vulnerabilities that have been discovered so far have been found in Apple’s smartphones. The firm found 210 vulnerabilities in the iPhone, giving iOS an 81% share of known mobile phone vulnerabilities, while Android, Windows Phone and BlackBerry devices combined to have a 19% market share.

Yves Younan, a senior research engineer at SourceFire’s Vulnerabilities Research Team and author of the report, revealed to ZDNet that the results were “surprising.” He added that it was also “interesting” because Apple has continued to implement additional security features in new versions of iOS.

I’m not sure why this should be surprising to anyone, any platform that hits a sufficiently large number of users will fall prey to attack.  The many lessons that we learned on the PC platform are happening, albeit at an accelerated pace, on the smartphone platforms.  This is something that we all have a stake in and every business and consumer smartphone customer will need to be responsible for “securing their end point device”, i.e. your phone,  just like you have secured your PC.  No platform is truly immune, active measures are called for.

At BlackBerry we’ve built in several features to help, BlackBerry 10 has built in support for our Fusion MDM product to remotely manage and more importantly to remotely wipe sensitive corporate data.  We’ve got Balance, essentially separate “personal” and “business” partitions built into the platform keeping work and personal data and apps separate and secured.  Our BlackBerry World store has “Enterprise Store” capability, allowing businesses to select, manage and distribute only the applications they’ve approved on the business partition.  Finally, we’ve also announced our relationship with Trend Micro to keep our BlackBerry World stores malware free.

I wish that it were the case that all the features and services we’ve built for BlackBerry 10 were enough, however, you’ll need to take additional steps to insure your apps, services and phones are secure for your customers and employees to the best of your abilities.  This includes preparation, education and implementing sound policies and procedures.   This is our shared responsibility in the smartphone ecosystem.