Tom Ortega II

Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

The Future of Biz – Crowdsourcing

In Business, Ideas on July 2, 2009 at 10:19 am

I think about business a lot, either analyzing and breaking down a business that is serving me or thinking about my own business.  I’ve done that for quite sometime.  Around 1999 or 2001, I hatched an idea: Someday huge corporations will be replaced by revolving teams of contractors.  Employees will be expensive and pointless.  Instead, you’ll just announce a need and pay those that deliver.  Workers will no longer want or care to work for anyone but themselves.  They’ll prefer to work on projects they pick with people they like vs risking their future on one single corporation.

My idea was crowdsourcing before the term was coined in 2006.

It occurred to me that business as it stood back then was flawed.  It started out good, i.e. you wanted to farm out the work to a set of experts vs trying to futilely build it in house.  Very quickly though the process failed.  You then had to seek proposals, review each proposal, each proposal’s owner(s) had to be vetted, then a time frame was worked out, budgets setup, etc.  All of which meant nothing because every project I ever saw in corporate America would go over budget and scope.

My idea was to skip the proposal and vetting stage.  Let ‘s face it.  Most consultancy firms hire independent contractors anyways, i.e. you end up paying a markup of 50% to 100% just so Company A or Company B can hire Contractor A.  Why not just get to Contractor A and his team for the project?  Skip the middle man, go straight to the source.  That’s what business is all about! Read the rest of this entry »

Staying Happy During Tough Times

In Business, Kids, Video Games on March 30, 2009 at 6:54 am

I know articles like this are bad news.  People losing jobs is not good for their psyche or for the economy.  Or is it?

I’m an odd egg, I get that.  I see life in a slightly skewed way.  The result of this is that I love experiencing everything: the good, the bad and the ugly.  I have contigency plans.  Should I ever get to the point where I have no job or any leads at all in the tech field, I’m looking forward to trying my hand at selling cars and flipping burgers.

In regards to selling cars, I have a list of ideas I’d use to help me be a great salesman.  I even went to 3 dealerships one day to do research.  The experience was so bad at all 3 (low end, mid and high) that I wrote down all the things that I would do to make the experience better.

For burger flipping, I’ve always wanted to work at In-N-Out.  I realize that I’d be the oldest employee, but I’d have a blast.  Last I checked, working your way up through the ranks was the only way to open up your own In-N-Out.  Plus, managers make a hefty salary and have wonderful benefits. Read the rest of this entry »

Getting ahead by serving others

In Business, Community on March 28, 2009 at 6:07 am

Too many want to climb to the top by stepping over people versus being pushed to the top by a group of friends.

I wrote that statement awhile back to explain my philosophy on leadership, particularly in business.  Sadly, the world of business has become too much about greed.  Too many CEOs and other business “leaders” look out for only one person, themselves.  It would seem that amassing ever larger fortunes are more important than looking out for those who are supposedly in their care.

A lot of this is because leaders these days have forgotten what it means to serve.  A leadership role does not command respect by default.  Though, many in CxO level positions seem to think that.  Heck, I’ve seen that mentality manifested down to the very first level of management.  Respect, at all levels of the workplace, is something that must be earned.  Many think that intimidation or bureaucratic process will help them achieve this respect, but that just backfires.  They may feel they have respect, but don’t realize that people laugh and talk smack about them behind their backs. Read the rest of this entry »

Leaving the Valley, Geeks and Workday for the Desert, Family and my Startup

In 360Conferences, 360Flex, Business, Community, eBay, flex training, Kids, Silicon Valley Living, silvafug, Uncategorized on January 9, 2009 at 10:58 am

Yup, you read that right.  It’s been a wonderful 3+ years in Silicon Valley, but it’s time to head to the desert of Queen Creek, Arizona.  I jump started my career here.  It’s funny to say that because I moved here when I was 30!  But these past 3 years did more for my professional life than my previous 12 years of working in Southern California.

There are two reasons I’m moving.  One is sappy and is detailed on this post over on my spiritual blog.

The other is related to my day-to-day activities.  In these tough economic times, I feel lucky and sad at the same time.  Some out there do not have a job or are stuck in a deadend job.  I, on the other hand, have two great opportunities in my life.

The first is my employer for the past year and a half, Workday.  Many people come to the Valley in search of that great startup to join.  Workday definitely fits the bill.  The people are incredibly talented and the work is some of the most challenging out there.  My team is one of the best I’ve ever worked for.  (If you want to join the Workday UI team, drop me a note and your resume/cv at tom.ortega@gmail.com) Read the rest of this entry »

Gaming: Playing both sides

In Business, Cell, Flash*Flex*AS, Playstation3, Programming, Technology and Software, Video Games on September 24, 2008 at 6:37 am

Being an OG – Original Gamer

For as long as I can remember, I’ve gamed (specifically the video kind).  Before I got married, I spent almost every birthday I can remember at Chuck E. Cheese’s (even my 21st!)  To me, birthday equated to gaming.  In addition to those special days, I have a lot of memories in life associated with gaming:

  • When I was 6 or 7,  I remember me and my dad going to our frequent hangout, an arcade down the street.  It was actually a miniature golf course, but we never did anything but game.  We’d play Vanguard together.  As you can see by this image, it had this unique setup.  It was one of the first games I can remember that had multiple buttons.  My dad would drive (use the control stick) while I sat shotgun (took control of the 4 direction shoot buttons).  Oddly, I think this contributed to my sense of it being okay to take the back seat for the greater good.  As long as the team wins, it doesn’t matter which position you play.
  • Read the rest of this entry »

Birthday Thoughts: Resource Utilization

In 360Conferences, 360Flex, Business, Community, Mac Pro, Playstation3, Programming, silvafug, Technology and Software, Workday on September 23, 2008 at 8:41 am

The phrase “Resource Utilization” has so many meanings in my life currently, that I have no idea where to start.

At Workday, I (relatively) recently got a new manager, Charlie Boyle.  One of his strengths is definitely resource utlization.  Every manager has their own style and no style is right or wrong.  However, Charlie has brought some great plans to the team.  He’s brought on some processes and tools that make our lives as developers more productive. I don’t think we as a team work any less harder, but we’re definitely working a lot smarter due to the resource management.

My Silicon Valley Flex User Group (silvafug) is sorting being revamped as I write this.  At our most recent meeting, several of us got together to discuss how to better the user group in a variety of ways.  After Wednesday’s meeting, we’ll likely be officially announcing the launch of Silvafug South (and by default, Silvafug North).  There are a lot of great people in the user group with great ideas on how to make it better for everyone.  I look forward to working with them. Read the rest of this entry »

Birthday Thoughts: Philanthropy

In 360Conferences, Business, Philanthropy on September 19, 2008 at 3:34 pm

Yesterday was my birthday.  I turned 33 years old.

Ever since I can remember, September has been a time of contemplation for me.  Around Labor Day, I take advantage of the three day weekend to sorta turn inward.  I take inventory of my life in its totality.  I see what I have or have not done, where I can do better and if I need to make a shift in any area of my life.  Some big decisions that have been made during this time include the following:

  • Organizing a coup d’etat of the literary/writer’s club my senior year of high school ( I put out more publications that year then the club did the previous 3 years combined, w00t!)
  • Meeting my wife’s family to see if I could marry into it (they passed and we got engaged in October)
  • Bought my first house, signed docs on my birthday (though later backed out to pay for the wedding instead)
  • Got married to my beautiful wife (My reminder: 18 (my b-day) + 4 (ever) = 22 (my anniversary))

Read the rest of this entry »

Help me teach you Flex!

In 360Conferences, 360Flex, Business, Community, Flash*Flex*AS, flex training, Programming, silvafug, Technology and Software on July 28, 2008 at 11:14 am

John posed a question to me the other day: What’s important to you?  I’ll leave out the obvious answers: wife, two kids, and church.  He was asking more in relation to business and in particular, our business: 360|Conferences.  So I was noodling on an answer for him.

Saturday morning, I finally caught up on a thread on an internal Flex list.  The list was about a fairly common problem we have in the Flex world.  There seems to be a nefarious void that people learning Flex tend to fall into.  One where they’re beyond “This is a file.  This a tag, made up of brackets and text in between them.” and below “I just rewrote the AdvancedDataGrid component to run 50% faster.”  I have feelings in regards to how to help folks cross that void, so I started noodling a response to the thread.

Then it dawned on me, my two noodles were of the same type: helping folks grow and learn. Read the rest of this entry »

What kinda person is Tom Ortega?

In 360Conferences, 360Flex, Business, Creative Writing, Kids, Silicon Valley Living, silvafug, Technology and Software, Workday on May 7, 2008 at 9:12 pm

I was chatting with Brendan the other day. He asked what kind of person am I to attempt to carry a full time job, put on conferences on the side, manage a successful user group, write articles for the Edge and Adobe Development Center, be a good husband, be a good father of two, and be a good cub scout den leader.

This got me to thinking. Most people only know the Northern California Tom Ortega. Prior to my move to the Silicon Valley, my list of activities were quite different. In Southern California, my plate consisted of holding a full time job, being a good hubbie, being a dad of one and a whole lot of commuting. I didn’t blog, didn’t really participate in any tech community and flitted from one business idea to the next with none taking shape or form. Read the rest of this entry »

The concept of Tiny Business (i.e. smaller than Small Business)

In 360Conferences, 360Flex, Business, Community on January 28, 2008 at 3:04 pm

Business is changing. We’ve been hearing this for quite sometime now. As a whole though, business really hasn’t changed much. You still have massive companies, with many different layers. Even Small Businesses tend not to be very “small”. I think I’d like to coin a new term, if I may be so bold: the Tiny Business.

By tiny, I’m referring to employee count vs company reach. My business partner John Wilker and I put on tech shows for 300 to 400 attendees under the tiny company known as 360Conferences. We’ve done two so far and two more are in the works. Running a tiny business is hard, very hard. I’m sure all tinies have it hard, but what adds pressure to ours are two things: Part-time and Industy Transformation.

First, I’ll talk about the Part Time aspect. John and I have full time jobs as developers. I work at Workday and really enjoy my job. Last week was an incredibly busy time for the UI team. It was so busy that not much time went to 360Conferences. As the dust settled on the Workday front, the work for the 360|Flex Atlanta show picked up steam. I mentioned to John, “I never realize how much we do for 360Conferences while we do it. When we’re in tune with work and family, things get done at an amazing pace. However, jumping back in after a week off, it seems overwhelming.”

At first, I thought I was being a bit over dramatic. My wife says I’m full of “drama” and she’s probably right. However, I was thinking there was some merit to my feelings and received some validation in Atlanta. Ang’elle, the gal helping us out at the OMNI Hotel, was about 3/4 of the way through our onsite visit before she asked the following: “Now, are you guys a 3rd party planning company? Someone’s hiring your company to do this show, right?” We told her no and explained that we put on 360|Flex for developers. We tell her it’s not an Adobe conference. “They support us, but it’s not an Adobe show per se.” She followed up with, “Well, how big is your company? How many in your department?” John and I laughed, then explained we were the entire company. “The buck stops here…literally.” She ended with, “You’re kidding, right? I was thinking there was a whole army back home helping you do this event. Wow.”

Now, if John and I were just repeating a familiar formula of planning high-priced conferences, things may be simpler for us. We’d be taking a known pattern, adjusting it to fit our topic (Flex) and then be calling it a day. However, John and I also felt the need to throw another challenge into the mix, “Rather than just do a better conference for Flex, what if we changed the way conferences were done as a whole?” This is where the Industry Transformation aspect comes in.

To be a memorable and honest business, you have to be ready to take on an industry and change the playing field. Being a tiny company also helps play a roll in that. With it being only John and I, we can turn on a dime. We can come up with, discuss, hash out, re-argue and refine a point over night. We can then implement that new aspect the very next day as a concerted business effort. The effects of that power cannot be understated.

We’re not the first to enter into this foray of low-cost, developer-centric conferences. We’ve never claimed to be the first, but we would like to think that we’re one of the better ones out there. That’s the thing about trying to be a truly disruptive company vs. one that just talks about being one. You have to listen to your heart/gut as you destroy the business norm, but you still have to make sure the customers are happy. If no one likes what your disruption brings, then your disruption is more to feed your ego than it is to provide a better environment in the particular marketplace you serve.

It’s also incredibly lonely being a market disrupter. The old guard doesn’t like you, rightfully so since you’re killing their business. Being a tiny business doesn’t help either. I have John and my wife to fall back on when I get discouraged; no department, no manager and no Big Boss. John, the poor guy, then has to not only support the workload we share, his full time job, but also my floundering spirits. My wife, the poor gal, then has to deal with not only two growing toddlers, but a husband who then needs a little TLC. Both of them are amazing though and I’m usually back to high spirits soon enough thanks to their efforts. There’s one more source I can go to for support as well, and more often than not, I forget about them because I don’t see them when I get home and they’re not IMing me all day. However, this source plays just as big a role in the grand picture as my wife and my business partner. That third source is my customers.

Yes, MY customers. I work hard for them. I literally give my blood, sweat and tears for them. Sure, you can say every company does that, but let’s face it, the heart, the love, the passion are usually not there. Like I tell John, I wake up with customers on my mind and go to bed with them in my heart. Heck, I even include my customers in my prayers, “Heavenly Father, help me find better ways to serve my customers.”

I am proud of every single one of my customers. Whenever one buys a ticket, Eventbrite sends John and I an email. I see their names long before I see their faces. They maybe faceless for a little while but not for long. John and I greet every one of our customers at our shows. If you can’t welcome your own customers to your show, you shouldn’t be putting on a conference. Sorry. We hand greet all 300 to 400 of our attendees and sponsors. Nothing makes me smile more than when I say, “Hi, <insert customer name>. I’m Tom, welcome to 360|Flex.” and they do a double take. They look back at John then me, saying “THE John and Tom who planned the show?” To which, we answer, “That’s us.” The person gets a smile and you can tell that you have made them feel special. We’re not super stars, but we can make our customers feel like they are the most important thing in the world to us. This is because, quite simply, they are.

We sent out a little note to past customers at 2am on Friday night/Saturday morning. We asked them to share the experience they had at our conference with others as we’re nearing the final 30 days of 360|Atlanta. By Saturday morning, we had a few email responses and blog posts. I have a feeling that we will continue to see the “love” be poured out by them over the next week or so.

I thank my wife and John all the time for their support. To my customers though, I wanted to send out a huge thanks. Not just for your monetary support, but for all the kind words (and constructive criticism) you send our way. I know John feels the same, but he’s just not as mushy as I am. I’m a softy though, and my customers help me feel the love.

If you’ve never had the pleasure of truly serving a customer of your own. You should definitely give it a try. Nothing beats the feeling, especially if you’re lucky enough (and humble enough, I’d say) to learn how to serve them correctly. That’s what business is about: Not money, but people. Sadly though, many businesses fail to remember that.

John and I aren’t perfect. Far from it. One thing you’ll notice at our shows is that we bicker like an old married couple. The reason for that is because while we cannot promise our customers perfection we can promise passion. We will do everything in our power to try to achieve the closest thing to perfection that you can get at a show. It’s not because of your money that we strive for perfection. It’s because you are a real person who deserves the best experience. Your money is merely a vehicle to help us achieve that goal. Too many businesses these days feel like their customers owe them something. I hope those businesses die off and let those who care take over. I have a feeling that the replacement companies will be Tiny Businesses: small in size, but big in reach.