Imran Saleh

A Product Manager living in Toronto, Canada

Update From Imran – New Job

New Job

New Job

In February of last year year I had to leave my old job due to downsizing. But good news — in August I started a new job! I’m back at McKinsey & Company, the consulting firm. I’m working as a Director of Product Management at PriceMetrix, a Financial Analytics software company they acquired.

This is fun because
– The people at McKinsey are very ambitious and I like the culture
– But its not the typical McKinsey hours and is more balanced
– This plays into my strengths I believe which are in executing on a plan, vs trying to whiteboard a new idea
– I also have some more context around financial advisors and the landscape, so that helps me be conversant

Summer in India

Summer in India

Having the summer off allowed me to volunteer as a counselor at the Global Encounters Camp at the Aga Khan Academy in Hyderabad, India. I was one of 10 counselors, for 60 participants aged 15-17 who were from 13 different countries (like Syria, Tajkistan, Afghanistan). It was amazing! The participants and their diversity was so amazing to be part of and it was nice to get out of the usual office/computer job to a role where you can develop real, meaningful relationships with people.

It was definitely physically demanding. I was probably getting 5-6 hours of sleep everyday for a month, and when I was awake it was go, go, go, and not just participating but having to lead activities or groups. The food in Hyderabad is known for being very spicy so at times I would feel my stomach getting unsettled and would have to be careful.

It really taught me a lot about humility. It was difficult sometimes when I wanted to do something a different way or felt like I needed more rest. But when I ultimately realized I was there to support the participants it keeps it all in perspective. And looking back while it was definitely difficult during the process it was a lot of fun and I would do it again.

Mumbai

Mumbai

Before camp I traveled to Mumbai, India (whose Sealink bridge is pictured above). The best part was meeting people. I had about 4-5 people that I got in touch with and was able to meet them for lunch and they pointed me to the right sites, restaurants, and shops. I ate at good restaurants but they were all very affordable (compared to Canada at least).

I got around the city very easily with Uber. The traffic is pretty bad, a 12km ride across the city will take you roughly 45 minutes on average. The corresponding Uber ride costs you about $5.

One of the interesting aspects was going on a tour of the Dharavi slums. I was expecting it to be very poor but the government is modernizing the area. There are various industries within the slum — recycling, aluminum, etc. and workers live in the factory itself to save on money. They are earning about $8 a day, but people had internet and smart phones in the slum. It was sanitation that is lacking — Having your own toilet or one that is not shared by too many people seems to be among the biggest commodities in this part of the world.

Tokyo

Tokyo

On the way to India I stopped in Tokyo to visit a friend from college and her family.  The food is excellent in Japan. There are over 160 restaurants with a Michelin star, many are just small 8-person type establishments. I had to be careful with the Sesame allergy, not eating pork, but was been fine when asking.

The Japanese culture I found to be very polite, orderly, and perhaps a little reserved.  When they say the flight will board at 12:05, it boards then and not at 12:06. The restaurant service is great, but there is no tipping done. In general the city is very clean, and has this calm aura to it. It is surrounded by a lot of water, which I think contributes to this, but also you don’t feel like on the streets there is a lot of beeping, noise, or people shouting or playing music into the open air. The signs help you get around everywhere very easily, and they are all in English, so it is very comfortable place to be.

The flip side of this systematic culture is that people can be very rule abiding and exacting and not very flexible. They asked me a lot of questions about my India visa to make sure it was valid and correct — they didn’t just “go with the flow” that it looked ok. However they are always very polite about doing so!

Wrapping up

I stayed in Toronto with my family over the holiday break.  No upcoming travel plans for now, but perhaps to Europe over the summer.

Drop me a note sometime.  Hope things are well with you!

Take care,
Imran

Update from Imran – April 2017

Toronto Life

Toronto Life

I am on a break from work which has been a nice opportunity to take a step back and learn some new things!

In February there were 9 layoffs at the software startup I worked at (Influitive) and my position was included. The company has been facing slower than expected growth and it was the second round of layoffs since October 2016.

I have since gotten into coding through work on a mobile app side project. If you’re up for being a beta tester let me know and also I’m working on a software development with Different Licensing Types for Software so any help on that I’m here to help and advise you the best way possible. I feel like in some ways I’m learning more off the job, and am enjoying this time while it lasts!

improv class

Improv

In September I started taking Improv classes at The Second City in Toronto. They have a 5 course program (Level A-E), and each level meets for 3 hours a week for 7 weeks.

Some friends had suggested trying it out, and some of the main things I’ve learned are:

1) In Improv you want to “Yes and” your partner as much as possible.
If your scene partner tells you that you’re wearing an XL tie dye shirt, tell them yes you are, and that you made it right here at Mt. Rushmore Summer Camp.
That is accepting their “offer” (the “yes”), and amplifying it creatively (the “and”).
2) Its about having fun, not trying to be funny
The funniest things happen when you are in the moment on stage, responding with whatever seems normal. “Trying” to be funny usually comes across as forced, and this takes the pressure down quite a bit.
3) Emotions / Characters / Object work add a lot of depth to the scene
If you want to make something compelling, add some emotion (anger, sadness, disgust) and give yourself a character/something to do (accent, a nervous habit, pretend you are making some coffee)
I am now on Level D and we just completed our class show. As I’ve progressed, I’ve made friends in class that push me to keep going, so I am on track to complete the basic Improv program in June. If you’ve ever wanted to try something new that extends your comfort zone I’d highly recommend it!

Biking & cooking

Biking and Cooking

 I continue to use the Toronto Bike share to get around downtown. I learned the hard way that you have to be careful turning along the infamous Toronto street car tracks. I had a skid in October that required a few stitches, but I’m all good now.

My new favorite cooking discovery is my Rice Cooker. I’ve been using it to make white rice, brown rice, and steel cut oatmeal. I’m now trying to branch out into lentils, beans, and quinoa. The flexibility of this device and the ability to just “set it and leave it” is really nice and lowers the barrier to getting into cooking. If you have any good rice cooker recipes send them my way!

Upcoming Travel

Upcoming Travel

For the most part I’ll be in Toronto the next few months. I have a trip to Boston May 25-29 planned for a College Reunion. In July, I am going to Hyderabad, India as part of a summer program I am volunteering at.

Hope things are good with you! Let me know how you are doing and if we might overlap in any of those places.

Take care,
Imran

Update from Imran – Sept 2016

Toronto in the Summer

 

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So the Toronto summer is about over, but its been a pretty hot one. It was consistently in the 80s Fahrenheit for a high (27 degrees Centigrade). I can’t even remember what winter felt like. I live on King St. where there are plenty of lounges and restaurants (including Drake’s) so people are taking full advantage of it.

I now have a membership to the Toronto Bike share and use it on my morning commute. Biking in any city can be kind of scary at first, but with some practice you get the hang of being a regular. I still get passed all the time on the streets by the “pros”, but I just appreciate being able to get somewhere fast without having to take the bus or walking, and a workout while I’m at it!

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There is a roof top pool/restaurant in my apartment building that has a new restaurant called Lavelle. The lines are pretty crazy to get in on the weekends, but the view is nice. If you’re in Toronto – come over and we could hang out here!

smoothierecipe

I have also discovered that I love making smoothies. I first got a Magic Bullet but upgraded to the NutriBullet which I find works better on frozen fruits. Here’s what my Freezer looks like. I’m continuing to experiment with new combinations — this is my current formula: Blueberries, Raspberries, Mangos, 2 Tablespoons Aloe Vera Juice, Cranberry Juice, 1/2 Cup Spinach, 1/2 Cup Kale.

If you have any good smoothie recipes, send them over!

worklife

Work Life

Work is good. Our company Influitive (a startup of about 140 people) unfortunately just went through a round of layoffs in order to better get to profitability. Going through that experience is not fun, because you lose some good friends, but it also makes you realize the importance of getting a business model right in a startup. Right now I’m trying to better figure out how help us grow more strongly.

Influitive is a software company, and I work in new Product Development, which is responsible for building new features and maintaining the existing software. We are organized into “Squads” which is made up of one Product Manager (me), five engineers, one designer, and one quality assurance tester. We each name our squad. Ours had a hard time coming up with a name, so we went with “The Squad that cannot be named” and that turned into the Voldemort Squad below. Here is our Squad photo, see if you can figure out where I am…you might be confused!

voldemortsquad

One interesting thing we do is every day at 11:51AM we have a 9 minute sync up meeting. One person in the company does a 3 minute presentation on some topic to the whole company. So far I have given presentation on overcoming anxiety through meditation and one on my squad’s deliverables for our Summer Solstice deadline. Definitely a good way to get over nerves.

In addition, I made a (small) appearance in our company recruiting video (see below – skip to 1:30)

Dubai

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From July 21 to 31, I went with my sister to Dubai (photo album here) to watch and volunteer at the Jubilee Games, an Ismaili Sports tournament. Some of my duties were to write articles for TheIsmaili.org and do sports highlights.

Dubai was pretty hot (like over 100F, 40C) but its a dry heat. If you stay in doors, and keep in the shade when you are walking outside (and do it only for a few minutes at a time) it’s actually not too bad.

Outside the games, I made a trip to Abu Dhabi to see the Sheikh Zayd Mosque, which is this beautiful mosque full of jewels. You would think that it is an ancient relic, but it was actually constructed in 2006.

Upcoming Travels

No upcoming travels for the time being! Just staying put in Toronto so let me know if you are here. Always love to hear from you!

Take care,
Imran

 

How to fill out and sign a PDF form that is not editable

  1.  Open the PDF in your web browser and download it.  Then click the arrow to the right of the file icon and select “open with system viewer.”  It should now open with Adobe PDF Reader.

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1b.  If in Step 1, If it does not open in Adobe PDF Reader, then open Adobe Reader (press Cmd + Space and type in “Adobe”), and then open the file from there directly.

2.  Click the “sign” button in the top right corner

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3.  Click the “Add Text” button that appears on the right

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4.  Click the “Add text” button on the toolbar that comes up

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5.  Click your cursor where you would like to insert text and start typing

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6.  You can do other things like Place signature, add checkmark, place initials using the tool bar at the right

My 10 Favorite Productivity Tricks — Product Management Edition

My 10 Favourite Productivity Tricks — Product Management Edition

Being a Product Manager differs at every company depending on the specific process, tools, and structure you use. Here are some of my top productivity tricks I’ve developed in my first 6 months working at Influitive. I’ve ranked them roughly by impact

1. Quickly file JIRAs using keyboard shortcuts on Bee

Countless times I’ve been in a meeting, a standup, walked over to someone’s desk, overheard someone talking, or witnessed a conversation in Flowdock (our chat app) and it’s lead me to need to file a story in JIRA to cover the thing that needs to be done. Logging into JIRA and creating a new issue from scratch or cloning an issue is kind of tedious.

Bee is native Mac application which I have set up so that when I press Shift+Cmd+Space, a Quick Add JIRA screen comes up and I can easily capture the fields and file it. It nearly instantly generates me the Issue Key so that I can send a link to the JIRA in whoever needs it, or just keep it in my backlog.

This has had HUGE impact for me because instead of writing things down in some memo pad or Evernote entry I may not come back to or forget about, I can immediately note issues for a future backlog and later come back and prioritize them when I have more time instead of forgetting about it.

Bee costs about $30 USD, but I’ve expensed it and I think it’s absolutely worth it. If you don’t use JIRA, Bee has integration with GitHub and FogBugz.

2. Awesome Screenshot Chrome Extension for Help Articles / Emails

The Mac’s native screenshot tool is great for quickly capturing images. However annotating that screenshot with arrows or notes has long been a pain. I’d have to open the image in Paint or another tool, edit, then save.

With the Awesome Screenshot chrome extension I can instantly add a red arrow, to much more easily point to what I’m talking about in an email to a user/customer, or in a help article I put in our Knowledge base.

I now use this even when I’m communicating with my family to make things ULTRA clear. It saves me having to type things like “click on the button in the bottom left that says Confirm.” I can now just say “click this button” and add an arrow. Voila!

3. Record Support Tickets from Freshdesk using Zapier

I could probably write a whole article just on my use of Zapier. I use it to remind my team about cleaning up the JIRA board once a week. We also used the Zapier Webhooks functionality to to some end-to-end testing of our Public API integrations with outside applications like Shopify.

One of the best Zaps I’ve created is one that logs all support tickets tagged as “Reports” or “Referrals” (the two features I’m the lead Product Manager for) in a Google spreadsheet, and then notifies me after 24 hours, so I can see what the issue was. I rely on our support team to help triage and answer tickets, and they will always escalate to me if needed. However, even in times when they don’t need my input, its useful for me as a Product Manager to see what’s causing our customers to complain or what they are noticing. That way it helps me sanity check what I’m doing. I try to review these tickets once a week, to see if there are any learnings, and update my planning accordingly.

4. Blocking weekly prep meetings for Planning, Grooming, Scoring, Release notes deadline, and other meetings in my calendar

One of the things I like about being a Product Manager is the regular cadence, rhythm, and repeatability of the development process. Each cycle you can get better at what you do and at anticipating things. At Influitive, we have 2 week dev sprints. We have a planning meeting and a grooming (pre-planning we call it) meeting on alternate Tuesdays. Retrospectives every 2 weeks on a Monday. And Release notes emailed to clients every 2 weeks on a Wednesday.

The day before each of these meetings I block time in my calendar to prepare. In the calendar invite for these blocks of time, I have my own agenda, that serves as a checklist. So I don’t even need to think about what is involved in getting ready for my meeting, its all there for me. I continue to tweak this and add/edit items over time

Sample Agenda for my “Pre-Planning Prep” Meeting

  1. Prioritize the stories in the next sprint
  2. Drag up stories from the backlog to the next sprint if we want to talk about them.
  3. Put stories into the next sprint that we want to score tomorrow.
  4. Make sure every story in next sprint has a spec
  5. Look at the action items from last Retrospective and check-in
  6. Review backlog bugs

5. Having customers schedule time with me at youcanbook.me and have it automatically send calendar invites.

I have my own Free youcanbook.me URL where if I need to schedule a meeting with someone outside of the company (A customer, a partner), I can just send them a link and tell them to pick the time that works.

I have it set up so as soon as they pick a time, I get an email, they get an email, and a calendar invite is sent out blocking that time.

I ask them for their name, email, and preferred method of communication:

  • Imran should send a GoTo Meeting link (allows screensharing)
  • Imran should call me
  • I will call Imran at 647–xxx-xxx(this is a Toronto, Canada number. Long distance may apply)
  • We will use Google Hangout (a URL will be sent in the Calendar Invite)

This saves me from having to do a back and forth dance, adjust for timezones, remember to send a calendar invite, etc. It’s all done for me.

Another alternative is calendly.com but that costs money.

6. Symlinking my Desktop folder into Dropbox so it syncs across my home and work laptops

I like to leave my laptop at work so I don’t have to carry it or worry about it getting stolen if I stop somewhere on the way back home. To ensure I can pick up right where I left off, I have Dropbox sync my files so that I can pick up where I left out.

My strategy is to have all of my email attachments, downloads, and desktop files go by default to a “My Files” directory on Dropbox. You can choose where downloads and attachments are stored, but you can’t move your desktop into Dropbox. However, per lifehacker you can symlink your desktop to a folder in your dropbox. That way it will sync. Problem solved!

Now almost any file I save on my work laptop will be synced to my home laptop. I also use Google Docs for spreadsheets and Simplenote for note taking which automatically sync as well. So it allows me to really be anywhere and feel like I’m at work!

7. InboxPause to prevent me from getting distracted by email and focusing on thing at a time

It’s really easy to get bombarded by notifications coming in from Email during the day. Using InboxPause I basically prevent myself from automatically seeing new email in my inbox until 4:30PM. I can still search for an individual subject or message, or manually unpause if I would like. But it limits those urges just to sit on inbox and click refresh and wait for work to come. It forces me to be a bit more proactive.

8. Hey Focus to block access to Facebook and other sites

Similar to above, sometimes its too easy to just have a free moment, type facebook.com and suddenly 10 minutes are gone and focus is lost. I personally use Hey Focus but also StayFocused has been a good Chrome Extension that I’ve used in the past. It auto populates a list of common distracting sites, and then I can add my own. If I try to visit a blacklisted site, it blocks me and reminds me that is blocked with a motivational quote. Sometimes just that one barrier can be all it takes to prevent me from getting sidetracked.

9. Mac Automator scripts to remind me to go to sleep and to close out my email client so i’m not checking it constantly

Mac Automator is a great tool I have for reinforcing habits. You can write an automator script and then have it run at certain times of the day using the calendar feature. I have automator scripts to close my open browser windows and applications to remind me to go to bed or leave the office. I also have an Automator script to re-activate my HeyFocus distraction blocker from above, incase I unpause it over lunchtime and forget to re-enable it, so I don’t mistakenly leave the flood gates open.

10. MixMax to schedule emails and also monitor read / opens

I often schedule emails that I write late at night to be sent around 10AM the next morning, when people in the company are more likely to read them. This helps me get it out of my system and finish the task say at 9PM at night, but then have it go out at an optimal time for others to read it. I also do this to let people know I’m on vacation. Usually I’m rushing around the day of vacation, so scheduling a reminder that “today is the last day I’m in office” allows me one more thing to free off my mind.

I can also use Mixmax to track if an email has been read/opened. Sometimes when people haven’t replied I’m not sure if they got it. The read rates give me that confidence that it has been processed, even if someone hasn’t responded.

Well those are some of my best tips! I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments as well other tricks you might have that I missed! I’m sure I’ll have another edition of 10 ready in a few months, so stay tuned. If you’re interested, follow me and you’ll get a notification when I post with the next batch.

Update from Imran – Feb 2016

Hope you are doing well! Wanted to send you one of my email updates on how things are on my end.

Toronto

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I’ve just turned 31 and am writing to you from sunny but cool Toronto, Canada where the temperature is -5° Fahrenheit (-20° Celsius). You may be wondering — wasn’t I just in Portland? What am I doing in Toronto?

I liked Portland but decided I wanted to try living in a different place where there was a large Ismaili Muslim community (of which I am a member) and also a good tech scene. I was considering Vancouver, Seattle, Toronto, and Dallas. I ended up finding a good job in Toronto and also have a lot of family here, so there is where I settled. The diversity of people, cuisine, culture have been great so far!

I moved to an apartment in downtown Toronto on King and Bathurst. I have a view of the CN Tower (the big skyscraper in town) and it’s facing away from the street so it is usually very quiet, which I love. Now I just need to get all my furniture assembled!

Working at Influitive

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In Toronto, I’ve joined a new company called Influitive as a Director of Product Management. Influitive is an advocacy marketing software company, which helps companies leverage online reviews, social media, and word of mouth referrals from their existing customers to “advocate” for their product and drive new customers. Advocacy marketing has been around for a while, but the software industry around it is relatively new.

The company is growing and there has been a lot of opportunity to take on more responsibility, which has been fun. As you can imagine, it can been very easy to get caught up in all the work. I have been trying to meditate to help myself stay settled despite all the changes in work and environment.

Serving on a Vipassana Retreat

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Before Toronto I had about 6 weeks off, I volunteered on a 10-day Vipassana meditation retreat in Kauffman, TX. The difference between going as a volunteer server instead of a meditator is you meditate a little bit less (about 3 hours a day instead of 6-7 hours) and you’re allowed to talk. The volunteer duties include cooking food, preparing the halls, and other management tasks so the meditators can focus on their practice and keep silence.

It was a great experience. Like in daily life, I had to interact with people, face conflicts, and other issues which might be difficult or challenging. But I could see how much better I was able to deal with things when I had a bit of meditation. Like I said above, I want to keep it up because I can see the how it helps me deal with every day life a little bit more calmly and thoughtfully.

Peru (Machu Picchu)

View of Machu Picchu with Urubamba River below.

Over Thanksgiving I went to Peru with a group of 10 people to hike the Salcantay trail to Machu Picchu. We flew into Lima, and then into Cusco where we got acclimated for a day or two to the altitude and then began our 4 day hike.

The uphill wasn’t so bad, but the downhill and the length of time each day was the biggest challenge for me! We did 8-10 hours of hiking a day, and some days we had to wake up at 4 or 5 am in order to get to the next camp site before dark. So it was certainly not a vacation by any means, but it was definitely an experience!

Seeing Machu Picchu was the pinnacle. It was a 15th century Incan city built in the mountains that has very impressive architecture and a magical, perhaps spiritual feeling to it. You can tell just how much effort went into building this place. It feels like the peak of human endeavor.

Upcoming Travels

Here are my travels for the next few months. If we are overlapping, drop me a line and perhaps we can meet up!

Birmingham, AL: Feb 25-29

San Francisco, CA: Mar 6-13
San Diego, CA: April 29 – May 1

If you’re in Toronto please let me know and I would love to see you! My new contact info is below.

Take care,
Imran

Update from Imran – October 2015

I wanted to resend this note since it went to Spam boxes a lot the first time. Sorry if you are getting this twice!

It’s been about 3 months since my last note like this, so I wanted to send you an update on what’s been happening in Portland.

Portland

View from Angel's Rest Trail in the Multonomah Gorge, 45 minutes outside Portland

View from Angel’s Rest Trail in the Multonomah Gorge, 45 minutes outside Portland

I’ve moved on from living in Airbnbs into longer term apartments. But I’ve discovered in Portland I have all kind of allergies I didn’t know about! Because a lot of the homes here tend to be older construction (early 1900s) there is a large propensity to have dust, mold, other issues.

I have started getting “immunotherapy” shots for allergies, which over time is supposed to cure it. In some ways its a nuisance, but overall I’m glad I discovered it. All this time growing up when I’ve been sneezing on occasion when I thought I just had a “cold”, maybe it was actually an allergies!
I have been trying to get outdoors a bit more, and there are plenty of great hikes within a very close distance. A friend invited me to hike Machu Pichu in November, so now I have some incentive to begin training more!

Silent Meditation Retreat

Meditation Pagoda at the Southwest Vipassana Center in Texas

Meditation Pagoda at the Southwest Vipassana Center in Texas

From August 26 – September 6 I went on a 10 day silent Vipassana meditation retreat. This was my second one. It was held in Kaufman, Texas about 30 minutes outside of Dallas.

Some of the basic principles of the retreat:
– no talking to anyone except the meditation instructor (only if you have questions)
– no phone, computer, music internet, reading, writing, or any distraction besides meditating
– vegetarian meals for breakfast and lunch. no food for dinner except tea
– wake up around 4:30AM every morning, mostly meditation throughout the day, and lights out at 10pm.

Although it may sound very daunting, I appreciate that is it is a very structured environment that not only teaches you a meditation technique, but also gives you guidance on how to find satisfaction within oneself as opposed to chasing after “external” accomplishments which one has a much harder time controlling.

I felt good after the retreat because i progressed in my meditation practice at level i was happy with. I was happy also happy because I better understood what it means to be equanimous, which is one of the most important parts of wisdom from the Vipassana teachings for me.

It is by many measures an intense experience but also an intensely rewarding experience. I would encourage you to check it out if you haven’t heard of it!

Jehangir Saleh Lecture Series

Jehangir Saleh Lecture Series

In other news, I have been helping with the organization of a lecture series in honor of my cousin Jehangir. He passed away a few years ago from a genetic condition called Cystic Fibrosis. We were only a few months apart in age and he was a very good friend to me, and it made me appreciate the ephemeral nature of life.

In his honor, our family started a lecture series at the Philosophy department of Ryerson University, his alma matter. The first lecture will be held on October 27 in Toronto, Canada on the topic of The Art of Wellbeing: Living with Illness. If you in the Toronto area please come attend!

Even if you cannot attend, I thought I would let you know as we all have loved ones who deal with illness, and finding ways to remember them can be very rewarding. If you’d like to donate to the lecture series click here.

Upcoming Travel Schedule

Marin Software Co-workers

With my Marin Software Portland office co-workers on a hike

Here is a list of places I will be in the next few months. Let me know if we are overlapping and perhaps we can meet up.

Tampa: Oct 9-12
Los Angeles: Oct 15-18
New York: Oct 22-25
Toronto: Oct 26-28
San Francisco: Oct 28-Nov 2
Lima, Peru (Machu Pichu): Nov 23 – Dec 1

Would love to hear from you as always!

Take care,
Imran

Update from Imran – June 2015

Hope this finds you well. I think it’s been a while since we caught up, so I thought I’d send you a note about how things are going on my end!

I am currently living in Portland, Oregon. I moved here from San Francisco about 3 months ago.

Portland

Portland

Portland is a great town – smaller than San Francisco and a little bit easier to get to know. The food is great–there are awesome food carts where you can get a great meal for around $6. And there is no sales tax in Portland!

I have been exploring the city through Airbnb (the home/room rental site). Its given me a chance to try out all the neighborhoods in the city at a similar cost to renting. I am planning on getting a lease later this summer, but I have enjoyed getting to know
Portland through this route.

My desk at work

My desk at work

Life living out of AirBnb

Life living out of AirBnb

Bought a new bike for the Portland commute!

Bought a new bike for the Portland commute!

San Francisco

Sanfransisco

From May 2011 to March 2015 I had been living in San Francisco. I was (and am still) working at Marin Software, an online advertising technology company. I joined when it was around 200 people and still a startup, and it is now around 500 people and went public in 2013. I work with a team of about 10 software developers on the analytics portion of our software product. I don’t do any coding myself, but I help define the requirements of what we need to build, and organize/plan our work.

This year, I had the opportunity to move out to Portland to be closer to one of our engineering teams, and decided to take it! Working in our Portland office is great – the office is small so it is much easier to stay focused. Portland is also a lot more affordable than SF (i.e. $2000/month for a 1BR apartment vs. $3000/month in SF).

Bought a new bike for the Portland commute!

I’m working on my Portland beard! But not yet the length of my friend Asif (right)

Other Stuff

Besides that, in February I turned 30…kind of scary at first. But life is really enjoyable right now, and I’m getting more on top of things, so I’m happy about that.

That’s it for my update. Would love to hear from you! If your plans are bringing you to Portland anytime let me know and it would be great to meet up.

Take care
Imran

My learnings from Y-Combinator Startup School 2012

I attended Y Combinator’s startup school this past weekend. It was a fun event, that provided some inspiring words for those who want to found a company. I would definitely recommend attending at least once for those who have not been.

Many of the talks resonated with things I had already heard at other events; but it was refreshing to hear them in person from people who were quite accomplished. I liked Jessica Livingston and Ben Horowitz’s talks the best. Travis Kalanick (Uber) was also a very energizing and entertaining talk as well, I just didn’t take any notes on that one. It was also pretty inspiring to hear from Patrick Collison, who was I think the youngest person on stage.

I pasted the notes which I thought were most impactful to me below.

Jessica Livingston
Partner, Y Combinator

  • you need determination – you will get rejected
  • you will have problems
  • co-founder relationships are important – know yours well
  • key for managing investors – create a competitive situation
    • they are herd mentality – want to invest if others invest
  • 3 important things YC tells people to do
    • talking to users
    • writing code
    • exercising
  • avoid distractions (hobnobbing, startup events, etc.)
  • don’t talk to corp dev people – they will only want to acqui-hire
  • make something people want – talk to users and adjust
  • no extremes (happiness, depression) last that long

 

Ben Horowitz
Partner, Andreessen Horowitz; Founder, Opsware

  • build something you believe in
  • don’t give up
  • don’t get more isolated when you do a startup – stay engaged and meet people
  • build a way of doing something that is 10x better than the next way of doing it
  • its harder than it looks
  • take the top spot – #2 gets nothing
  • what we look for
    • a break through idea – usually looks like a stupid idea (only 1 parter understands it and the others don’t, and the founder is very smart)
    • a founder with the skill and courage to build the great idea into great company
  • courage is built over time – not born
  • Have these three things
    • 1) can you articulate your vision and convince
    • 2) do people to want to work for you
    • 3) are you able to get people on board

 

Patrick Collison
Founder, Stripe

  • Buenos aires – really good for getting things done
  • fix any errors that come up
  • find some intuitive thing that should be easy that is not and do that for your startup
  • friends with your cofounder – you should want to go with them for drinks
  • be the one at startup school 2 years from now, like he was

 

Ben Silbermann
Founder, Pinterest

  • building things takes a long time (1.5 years before it was released for him)
  • committing matters, doing a startup on the stuff is tough
  • investors are people. you want to convince investors that could be the one thing they regret not doing
  • be great at one thing – do that well
  • find your core set of users who really enjoy your product

 

David Rusenko
Founder, Weebly

  • create happy users – get them happy and then figure out what problem you are solving
  • It takes time on a startup
    • took 18 months – weebly to get traction
    • 36 months to “make it” out of money issues
  • you can’t succeed if you quit
  • think about the future and what will need to exist as basis for an idea

 

Tom Preston-Werner
Founder, GitHub

  • money is not the thing – its just a number
  • people are the only thing that matters
  • complementary skills – look for that in a co founder
  • if people are asking – can i pay for this product before you even think about selling it – that is a good sign
  • meet ups are a good way to meet people
  • learn how to code

How I sold my iPhone5 for $875 on eBay with only 2 hours of work

In my previous article I outlined the the ways of selling your iPhone5 online to make money.  In this piece I focus directly on eBay and how I managed to sell my phone for $875 (yes the retail price is $650) and make maximum profit in the first place.  These steps can really be generalized to selling any item on eBay.

Here are the steps

1.  Find a listing on eBay similar to yours that sold for a lot of money. 

There is no point re-inventing the wheel on eBay auctions.  Some listings have that magic appeal that get people to spend more to buy it.  It could be the way they use CAPS in the title to annoyingly DRAW YOUR ATTENTION, the way they the describe the product that engenders your trust, something else – who really knows?

The beauty of eBay is it is very easy to learn from other peoples’ sucess!  Use these steps below:

a.  Log into eBay and click the “Advanced” link next to search

b.   Type in the relevant search term for the phone you are selling (“iphone 5 verizon black 16 gb”).  Make sure to Click the “Completed Listings” checkbox.

c.  Click the “Buy it Now” tab and find a listing that’s similar to yours and that sold in the price range you want.    I found this iPhone5 listing for $880

 

d.  Once you’ve found your model.  Click this “Sell one like this” link near the top left of the listing.

 

 

2.  Create your listing  as a “Buy it Now” based on the model you selected 

If you’re followed the steps above , you’re now at a “Create your listing” page that is already pre-filled similar to your model.  Now you need to make some tweaks.

a.  Adjust the title as necessary so it is slightly different.  Add photos from the model listing.

You don’t want your title exactly the same as something else, just for uniqueness sake, but you can easily make slight tweaks as you see fit.

In terms of images, if you’re selling a new iPhone, they’re all going to look the same.  Save yourself the time and hassle of taking and uploading pictures, and download the ones provided on your model listing.  Simply go to the page, click the pictures and right click with your mouse and select “Save Image As.”  Download it to your computer and re-upload it.

b. Copy and paste the description then adjust.

The description from other listings does not come pre-filled, but you can easily copy it from another listing and paste it into your own.  Again, you want to make adjustments in the text so that you aren’t identical to someone else, but you can find ways to mimic the style.  Here’s the first few sentences from the model that I adjusted to my own:

Brand new Apple iPhone 5 16GB. I had to open the package to activate the phone.  I activated it and it was not used beyond that. It is now deactivated on my account and ready to use on your account. I used gloves to cover my hand to prevent any oils from getting on the screen. 

See – it sounds pretty convincing, and I didn’t have to make up any of the content from scratch.  It clearly convinced someone else to buy it already, so odds are it can do the same thing again!

 

c.  Mark your Listing as “Buy It Now” and set your desired Price.  You can always adjust down later.

The reason Buy it Now is important is because of commission you pay to eBay.  Compare the following for an $875 phone I sell on eBay.

On Auction-Style listings, eBay takes 9% of the final price.  That’s $79 in fees.

On Buy-It-Now listings, eBay takes 5% of most of the price (7% of the first $50).  That’s $45 in fees.

I keep $34 for myself by going with Buy-It-Now.

I also like Buy-It-Now because it removes a lot of the risk in selling an item (you know you can’t get sell it for less than you want), and the auctions can end quickly (no need to wait until the auction ends on Day 5, and watch a bidding war, when you can sell it on Day 1).

 

 

d.  Make sure you select “USPS Priority Mail” as your shipping method.

I find USPS is really good because you can print your labels right there from the computer at a discount.  It’s seamless, and allows you to do all the taping/packaging at home rather than at the mailing center.  You can drop it off in your mailbox or any post office.  No need to coordinate a UPS pick up or anything.   eBay will also fill in all the confirmation # details for you, so you don’t have to worry about manually inserting them and updating your Buyer on the status.  All taken care of for you!

 

3.   Fine tune, as necessary.   Make sure your auction runs on a Sunday.    Once sold, ship via USPS Priority Mail.

Once your auction starts, monitor it every few hours or every day or so.  If it doesn’t seem to be selling, you can lower the Buy It Not Price.  But first, make sure you have run it on a sunday (doesn’t matter what day you start).  The reason is that Sunday (evening specifically) is the time when eBay gets the most traffic, and is most likely to be when your item gets sold.

Once you sell it, make sure you ship it Via USPS Priority Mail – I recommend printing the label the moment you find your item sells.  It’s easy, and  the buyer will know you are in the process of shipping it, which makes them feel good and gets you good feedback.

And then you’re done!  Wow, $800+ in your own bank!  A handsome profit no matter how you look at it.  These strategies can apply to anything you want to sell, so go ahead and try your hand at something else as well!

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