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28 Days. 28 Lessons. One New Job.

No cabs in sight.

Last February: 7th Avenue at 23rd Street

On the surface, there’s not much to like about February. It’s 28 cold, grey, dreary days filled with excuses to stay indoors and count the days until spring. Sure, it could go down like that. Or you could use every one of those 28 days to get yourself in gear and finally score that job you’ve been eyeballing since it was t-shirt weather.

This February, instead of hurrying home from work to hunker down with a toddy and re-watch your Arrested Development DVDs for the ninth time, The Hired Guns invite you to invest that time in finding a new job. And not just any new job — the right job. We know you’ve been thinking about it, and next month we’re going to help you. Every single day.    Read More →

The Look Back Strategy: Working Backward to Better Products

As product people who subscribe to a lean and agile methodology, we have a tendency to think in short bursts and only focus on the near term, because after all, things change. Our typical strategizing looks like this:

  • Determine key priorities for the quarter
  • Determine metrics for those priorities; i.e. when we complete the priority, how will we know if we are successful or not? Did we move the business forward?
  • Focus on Priority 1 until it’s complete, and then move on to Priority 2
  • Always be willing to adjust based on user feedback and product discovery (testing ideas, seeing what works, and failing fast to move on to the next idea)

However, the downside of this type of thinking is that you can lose sight of the bigger vision and of the long-term business goals.

In order make sure that we don’t lose track of the bigger vision and make sure that our quarter-to-quarter priorities help move the business forward in the right, I am proposing that we instate a “Look Back” at the start of every year, and check in with it in June to see how we are doing.    Read More →

Why Working Parents Should Be Networking More in 2013 and How to Make it Happen

Working mom

Photo by van city 197

Working parents, I invite you to add another resolution to your list this year: do more networking. While networking is important for everyone’s career, I’m aiming this post specifically toward working moms and dads. Why? Because it’s something we often let slip. We working parents are often so focused on being efficient at work so we can get home to little Oliver or Sophie as early as possible that networking get pushed to the back burner.

Adding a little bit more networking to your routine, however, — or simply having a networking mindset — can add a lot to your career and personal happiness this year.    Read More →

Roll ’em Up: National Day of Service on Saturday, January 19

Every year since 1994, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday has been celebrated with a National Day of Serviceto rally citizens together to help those in need.

The White House has an event finder for tomorrow, and here are search results for all registered service events in and near New York City. You can pack food for the hungry at St. Clement’s Church, help the Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation register donors, clean out muck in Rockaway, Staten Island, and Brooklyn homes affected by the hurricane, or even share your thoughts on gun control at a theater co-op. There is an opportunity for every passion. Roll up your sleeves and get out there!

What is a Career in User Experience Really About?

This piece originally appeared on and is reprinted here with their kind permission.

In this new year it feels right to say something big, something about the meaning of life, and one’s career, and everything. I guess it’s been on my mind since last month, when I finished teaching a graduate class in user research. (It was here in New York, in SVA’s MFA in Interaction Design. Great program.) The class gave me a chance to get to know some very talented young designers, most of whom are just beginning their journey into the user experience field.

My main message to the class was that good user research isn’t a matter of learning the steps of some trendy methods, as though one were just following a cookbook. Instead, good UX work requires a genuine interest in observing, listening to, and learning from other people: primarily the customers themselves, but also the organization that owns the product. That observation, and that listening, must stem from a genuine human interest in people.    Read More →

13 For ‘13: Thirteen Books That Can Change Your Life in 2013 (If You Actually Read Them)

Every year it’s the same thing. We start out the New Year filled with good intentions, high hopes, and a formidable list of life-changing resolutions. And for an indomitable few, those resolutions result in positive changes and personal growth. But for the rest of us, life tends to get in the way.

Before we know it, January is over and February flies by (it’s such a short month!). Then the spring holidays come along. Then it’s summer, and… well, you know the rest. That pledge to “start tomorrow” just leads to the eventual realization that today is yesterday’s tomorrow. So, what can we do about it?

We can start today. For real. Right now.

What we need to do is go from “resolutions” to “real solutions.” And one real-life solution that really works, is easy to do, and can kick-start us into action, is to start reading. And my recommendation is to start your New Year’s reading with any one of the 13 inspirational and motivational books on this list.    Read More →

The Four Enduring Lessons I Learned from Sales Legend Zig Ziglar

Sales legend Zig ZiglarLong before others turned sales motivation into a slick, multi-channel industry, there was Zig Ziglar. Ziglar, who passed away in November, carried a bag for 25 years before he started talking about it. He was able to draw relatable lessons from real-world experience and deliver them in a memorable and folksy way.

I had the pleasure of working with Zig several times. He was a humble guy who had an incredible way with people and the ability to size up an audience and tell a story like no one else. Unlike so many others, you could remember what Zig said the next day. In a world of blowhards and phonies, Zig was the genuine article. I’ll miss him.

Zig taught me many things. And while, at least on the surface, the lessons were about sales and marketing, I’ve found that they apply to almost every facet of business and life. After all, what is sales if not an exercise in human connection?    Read More →

10 A/B Testing Lessons I Learned the Hard Way

An early attempt at Agile developmentAfter a decade in Product Development at Shutterstock and Beatport, I’ve performed a ton of A/B tests. Some were great. Others weren’t so great. But each one taught me something valuable, and each one made me better at what I do. I’m surrounded by some really smart people, but we’ve still had to stumble our way through some of these hard lessons because what seems intuitive is not always your winner. With that in mind, here’s something I wish I had started with years ago: a pragmatic list of lessons learned the hard way.

No two products are the same, so the tests we’ve run won’t work for your business. So instead of including details around specific tests, this list focuses on core principles that will help others succeed in testing. Have fun!    Read More →

Marko Hurst: Meet the Senior Drill Instructor for Boots to Bytes

Marko Hurst, Senior Drill Instructor for Boots to BytesIf you’re a regular reader of The Hired Guns blog, you’ve probably seen us lament the fact that the unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans is hovering around a woeful 10%. You’ve probably also heard that we’ve decided to do something about it. Enter Boots to Bytes: A Digital Re-Skilling Program for Returned Vets in NYC. We’re taking recently returned vets and pairing them with mentors who have established digital careers. But we could never do this alone. Fortunately, there’s Marko Hurst. Marko is an entrepreneur, content strategist, data analyst, and a former Marine. He’s also going to be the Senior Drill Instructor for Boots to Bytes. We talked with Marko about the program, as well as the difficulties of transitioning from the military to a civilian career.

What led to your decision to the join the military? And why the Marines?
There were two things, really. The first was the pull of adventure and the desire to see the world and to be part of something bigger than myself. The second reason was that I knew I wasn’t ready to go to college right out of high school. I was a good kid, but I knew that I needed discipline. A lot of people chafe under military discipline, but I actually welcomed it.    Read More →

How to Avoid Completely Humiliating Yourself at the Company Holiday Party

Holiday Office Party, 1966: Very, very boozyIs there any other time of year that’s more festive and fun than the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Years? The twinkling lights, the aroma of evergreen in the air, the promise of prezzies under the tree, and if you’re lucky, plenty of parties.

The youngsters reading this probably don’t remember, but back in the old days, companies used to splurge on holiday parties. They’d rent out entire clubs or restaurants, hire a caterer, give you a bonus, the whole nine. These days, most have cut back a little (or a lot). Many won’t let you bring a partner, and some even feature that most heinous innovation, the cash bar. Regardless of whether your company’s going all out or just throwing a potluck at the boss’s house, here are a few rules to ensure you’ll still have your job come Monday morning.    Read More →

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