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.

Great Vision, Great Execution

I may be BlackBerry’s Evangelism Team’s Sensei, but I’m not the Sensei of all things smartphone or even mobile devices.  Lucky for me, I get to work every day with colleagues who literally invented the smartphone category.  For example, I just had dinner with colleagues from the Enterprise Products team at BlackBerry and gained insights about how the requirements of operating mobile devices connected to the Enterprise lead to what we think of as core BlackBerry strengths re: security and manageability.

What I’m struck by as I’ve learned more about the evolution of BlackBerry’s Enterprise products is how the team’s very forward looking initial product vision continues to make product feature decisions easy to make even in today’s BYOD world.   In fact, it appears to me this makes BlackBerry the most “BYOD Ready” platform on the market today, yet “BYOD” wasn’t on the radar when the team crafted their product vision many product cycles ago.

What can we learn from this as Evangelists?  As a team, a strong shared vision and mission provides clarity for the team every day, but especially in moments of crisis or indecision.  At BlackBerry our team’s mission is to “Make BlackBerry the best business partner for App Developers.”  Period.  To begin with, this means many different things to us, like are we making things easier, faster and more profitable for our developers?  Are we helping them see additional opportunities worldwide with their apps?  You get the idea.

Up front clarity of vision and mission enables you see more clearly your desired end point, hence, helps you reach your destination faster and with fewer detours and false starts.

What’s your team’s vision and mission?

Don’t stop believing

Not to worry, I’m not going to launch into Journey’s power ballad….

It appears that the negative coverage is now increasing on my old friends in Windows Phone.  I joined the BlackBerry team just over a year ago, and in that time one skill I’ve “exercised” is to read the recent coverage of BlackBerry, process that information and to simply continue executing on the path we’d already charted.  This is something that a good Evangelist needs to do, believe in your own technology.  In the face of such constant, negative and well, sometimes actually quite amusing coverage, how do you keep the team moving forward?

Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t control.

It’s easy to get caught up and react to negativity.   So, early last year we learned that we had to carry our message out to developers ourselves.  This lead us to launch our now infamous 44 city BlackBerry Jam World Tour.  We could control our own messaging only if we could deliver it directly to developers without someone else’s spin or agenda.  We counted on this core of developers to carry our unfiltered message out to their community.  It seemed like a good idea and really was the best option available.  So we did, simple as that.

Another example was fighting the “vaporware” problem.  Being a former Microsoft Technical Evangelist, having to manage an Ecosystem to a new set of target dates was something I, er, was used to doing?  Anyways, we couldn’t control the speculation about “if BlackBerry 10 would ever ship” but what we decided to do is let developers experience it first hand.  We launched the biggest seeding program of it’s type in the industry.  Developers could monitor our progress build to build, SDK release to SDK release and see that BlackBerry 10 was real.

When you’re facing a situation like we’ve faced at BlackBerry, set realistic expectations with your team and management &  know it always takes longer than you think for your message to carry.   But the most important thing is to actively go out into the Ecosystem, tell your story and watch something great happen.

Focus, Focus, Focus on core value

In my Evangelism role I speak with developers and start ups all day, but when the start up is being run by an old friend, I listen carefully.  I’ve had the unique opportunity to observe my friends thoughts over a few years about developing a product or service based on his unique expertise and background over lunch or coffee.  During this time his thoughts evolved from a series of observations, to an idea, and now into a product that’s currently in development with a bunch of eager customers he and the team have already lined up.  What I’ve learned from him is another lesson of the power of focus.

Starting originally with observations of  classic  IT operational problems in big data centers,  my friend and his partners iterated through a bunch of product ideas, beginning with using streaming media and voice communications to monitor IT operations staff.  While doing this they came to a realization that they’d identified a powerful insight that’s driving their product’s core value: most problems they’d encountered are time based with location information and “who did what” being key data items.   Exactly the kind of information that a mobile phone can provide.

Turning a classic IT problem inside out, rather than using traditional data gathering  methods, they use the smartphone as the device that captures and encodes this information for their customers, turning what was a previously error prone and “after the fact” data collection problem into a real-time event creation captured using “point phone at thing (location, document, etc.), push button on UI, done”.  It’s a brilliant application of using the smartphone in a novel way.  By generalizing their observations after talking with a myriad of potential customers, they’ve actually moved to a different initial target market than IT operations.

He’s also applied some Evangelism principals we’ve discussed: like talking to customers early (evangelize early), he’s iterated rapidly on the core ideas (agile), he’s built a lean team (hire to your profile) and now he’s broadening the feedback loop (lunches with dudes like me…).

Looks like a success in progress, because the team is building an innovative product with a laser focus on maximizing via their core value.