8 Year Old Me on Career Day

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I recently set this image as the banner to my LinkedIn profile.

It’s actually a scan of a letter I wrote when I was 8 years old. It talks about a variety of things but what is most interesting to me now is the statement “When I grow up I hope to be a chemist or an (sic) computer sales man. I like working with chemistry and I love working with computers.”

The chemistry part makes sense, because my Dad was a chemist/chemical engineer. But who writes in a 3rd grade paper that they want to be a computer sales person!

Note: Computers in 1982 were very slow, boxy, heavy, and basically a pain to use. Our first family computer was an Osborne, one of the first portable computers, which had a monitor that is actually smaller than a modern day iPhone.

Anyway, after working in technology over the last 20 years, I guess I can now truly state that my dreams as a child were realized – instead of computers, its working in tech and the Cloud, and instead of sales person, its helping create new companies and spread new ideas…

RIP, my friend Joe… (Repost from LinkedIn)

<I posted this originally in early 2017 but wanted to capture it on my blog as well. Still miss you, buddy.>

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My friend Joseph James Moulton passed away recently. He had the biggest heart of anyone I’ve ever met and was also the best salesperson I’ve ever known.

I met Joe in 2004 when I was interviewing sales reps to join my freshly formed enterprise sales team at WebEx. Our internal recruiter was leaving to join Google, and on his way out handed me an inch high stack of resumes to call.

It was a Saturday and I was calling through the resumes. I had 3 stacks – the resumes to be reviewed pile, the folks to call pile, and the discarded pile. I picked up Joe’s resume and noticed some spelling errors on there, and started to place it in the discard pile. But something peaked my interest, and I looked at it again. But it didn’t have that much work history listed, so I started to place it again in the discard pile. But then an italicized quote on the resume caught my attention “Hand me the ball coach, I’ll make the play”… and I thought – I’ll call this guy Joe but if he doesn’t answer, I won’t leave a message.

Joe picked up and I introduced myself. His first question – “What did you like about my resume, that prompted you to call me?” Great question… so I said, “Well… I have 3 piles here and your resume’s spelling mistakes and lack of work history ended up in the discard pile twice but I saw your ‘hand me the ball coach’ quote and thought I would call but not leave a message… does that answer your question?” He said it sounded like a perfect match.

A week later he was hired, and I asked him to prepare a PowerPoint presentation on how to pitch WebEx. He told me he didn’t know what PowerPoint was, and I started thinking “oh ____, what have I done?”

Over the following few years, I observed Joe in his role as an enterprise sales rep for the company. He was always one of the top 2 reps in the company consistently quarter after quarter (Jessie his colleague was the other). He didn’t have the best demo, or do the best slides, but what Joe knew was people.

He loved people, and people loved him. I witnessed time and time again as orders came through from accounts that had never been customers of WebEx before. In fact, those were the accounts he loved the most – “Kris, give me the accounts no-one has ever sold, those are the ones I want.” And then he would even tell the customers that, “I asked for your account because in the history of the company, no one has been able to earn your business. I am going to change that.” And the next question would be, “What would it take to earn your business?” I once went to a meeting in NYC with Joe to Lehman Brothers, and in the meeting, he asked me to cover my ears in front of the CIO so that he could ask him what it would take to get their logo on our wall. Joe cracked into these accounts with humility, honesty, making connections with people – and it worked.

I also observed Joe around the office. He knew the names of all the cafeteria workers. He knew the gardeners. He would informally say “Hey Subes!” to Subra our CEO (nobody else called him that). Whether it was the most senior person in the office or the lowest level worker, Joe treated them all the same. And with heart.

His style was different from mine. I’m about the numbers, the rational decision to purchase, beating the competition, analyzing the proposals, etc. but Joe was all about people. He didn’t even think of his prospects and customers like that, he thought of them as friends. I noticed the prospects he talked to really liked him. And many times they bought the product to help Joe. Some of the deals he secured didn’t even really make financial sense for the customer. But they did it for him.

He had the biggest heart of anyone I’ve ever met. He did an amazing amount of community service and was always willing to go the extra mile to help anyone, even if he didn’t know them. He would literally give you his last dollar to share a meal with you. He cared deeply about family and relationships. He made people laugh.

I stayed in touch with Joe over the years, but not as much as I should have. I guess I always just thought he would be around, and next thing you know 10 years have gone by and we only email with each other every few years. Joe passed due to challenges with substance abuse and I really wish I’d been a better friend to him over the years. I am going to miss him.

Fiji Diving for Xmas

For Christmas this year, we decided as a family to go to Fiji. I am an avid diver/snorkeler/freediver, but had never been there before. The family decided to get PADI certified before the trip so we could all go diving together!

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Leah and the kids did their coursework in California along with their pool dives. PADI provides a “referral certification” where you do your remaining four ocean dives at your diving destination. Here is the family on one of their first Fijian dives finishing their certification process.

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We stayed on the island of Savusavu. A bulk of the island has protected waters and about an hour boat ride away is the coveted Namena Island with its marine reserve status and protections. Above are some pics of the dives we did; many, many different types of stony corals (Acropora genus mostly), soft corals, fans, and more. The fish life was abundant as well; anthias, chromis, and lots of critters everywhere.

In addition to diving and snorkeling, one of my hobbies is reefkeeping. I’ve had reef aquariums off and on for the last twenty years. One of my old websites (not maintained anymore but still running) is www.berlinmethod.com which details a few of the tanks I’ve had. No longer running is a website I started in the early 2000’s which was called frags.org and enabled reef enthusiasts to share propagated coral fragments with each other, to avoid taking new pieces from the reefs. Anyway, the point of all that is that I love stony corals, and can identify most of them to the species level when diving! And I’ve kept quite a lot of the different types of fish and critters in my tanks over the years that you see when diving.

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So much life! Lots of orange anthias swimming in this black Tubastrea sp. (sun coral). Interesting fact- sun coral is non-photosynthetic and that is why you see the all the little mouths open there in the pic, they are feeding on particles and plankton floating by…

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If you go diving, I strongly suggest a flashlight and gloves. LED with 800-1000 lumens can be purchased on Amazon for $35 or so, and allow you to see all the vivid colors at depth. Gloves enhance diving as you can grab onto pieces of rock without worry of cuts.

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Here’s our dive guide, Bait, or as he spells it in Fijian Beato. He was an awesome guide and knew all the spots… see below for some amazing shots!
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Swimming with about 15 grey sharks at Namena Island.
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A massive, 10 foot wide, Manta Ray at Namena Island. There was one other smaller one in the group as well.
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Me and JMC himself

I also had the honor to meet Jean Michel Cousteau, son of Jacques. Jean Michel has a resort in Savasavu that caters to divers particularly in the tradition of his family. Jean Michel continues to do his father’s work by leading a variety of environmental programs globally to help drive better reef and ocean sustainability. You can read more at Ocean’s Future Society and Cop 23 Global Warming UN Conference.

Here are two short videos I made while diving with the family out there…

We will certainly be returning to Fiji to dive more and spend more time with the fantastic people there. See you in the water!

Car Accident and Illness

I started the year with an illness related to a car accident from 2016.

About six months earlier, we took a family road trip with a two car caravan to Oregon for the July 4th weekend. My wife drove her car with Colin, and I took Aidan in my car. This arrangement allowed me to drive my two-seater Porsche 1990 964 Carrera 2 which had recently been rebuilt/redone.

Close to the California/Oregon border, a CHP officer rear-ended my son and me in our car when we stopped at a cross-walk to let a couple pass. The officer stated that she was looking for people on their phones and became distracted, causing her to drive into us at about 20 mph.

The illness that followed six months later was a fluid leak in my spinal column, which caused the Cerebral Spinal Fluid in my brain to get low, causing my brain to sag in its skull.

The symptoms were a daily debilitating headache and intracranial bleeding. It took three surgeries and three months to solve.

The daily headache pain ranged from 3 out of 10 to 8 out of 10 depending on the day, and when it was on the higher end, I sometimes was vomiting from the pain it was so bad. Because of my blood thinners, the doctors were really worried about the impact of the brain sagging for too long.

I was very fortunate as my family and I found one of the best doctors in the nation to handle this case, Dr. Ian Carroll. He was just down the road at Stanford.

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I worked at BetterWorks through this entire experience, except for the three periods immediately following the three surgeries where I had to lay flat for 72 hours. Yeah, that was fun…

It turns out that Steve Kerr, coach of the Golden State Warriors, has the same CSF leak condition. I believe he has had similar surgeries to help solve the problem.

Going through this process was quite a difficult one. I ended up turning off social media, playing a lot of backgammon with Leah and the kids, and really just trying to make the best of it. I was depressed at times, and was really worried about ever getting cured. Knowing how dark some of those days were gives me an appreciation for staying the course, and just knowing that things can and will get better. I am really thankful to my immediate family and my parents and sister as well for the amount of support every one of them gave during this period of my life.

Snapchat fun…

So I don’t post often to Snapchat, but it is a great tool for creating content. They simply have the best filters!

The way I use it is… open Snapchat, record a video with filters enabled, save locally to your phone, then edit/trim locally, and then share on IG with auto-share to Facebook.

Pro tip: When you record videos, Snapchat will not interrupt the music playing on your phone and therefore incorporate it into your video, as opposed to the video recorder from Apple.

Spearfishing

 

A few months ago, I started spearfishing. My buddy Jesse got me into it. I was always intrigued by the idea, and heard even folks at work talking about it (ahem Graham-bo).

I have always been a water person. I love fishing, snorkeling, freediving, holding breath underwater, and scuba. In fact, my Uncle certified me in PADI Scuba in Australia when I was 14 or so. He is one of top certified PADI instructors (Divemaster level) in Australia with over 6,000 recorded dives.

So the idea of challenging myself, holding my breath to depths of 30 feet or more, hunting for fish in the crisp water of Northern California in nooks and crannies of the undersea-world, and enjoying our natural resources is very appealing. What set me over the edge was our Duggan Dude’s annual fishing trip this year was in British Colombia, where we fished for salmon and lingcod. Bringing up monster lings from 100 feet on fishing line was so fun, I thought it would be great to dive down and find them in their natural habitat with spearfishing.

 

Pictured above is the gear you need to go. Actually you kind of need a lot of equipment. Gun (Pathos Open Laser 75cm), special extra long freediving fins, mask and snorkel (spearos use a very small mask to limit the amount of pressure equalization required and also a very simple snorkel to avoid getting caught in the kelp), weight belt, 7mm wetsuit with hood/gloves/booties, float line, float (Banks board pictured above), freedive watch, flashlight, and other misc gear. You can see Jesse here about to hop in the water.

The process is pretty straightforward. Find a beach access point. We go in Carmel-by-the-sea where there are quite a few spots that are easy parking and immediate entry. Suit up, swim out to the kelp, tie up your float to the kelp, and start freediving. Keep the speargun always pointed down, you don’t want to shoot your buddy. If you get seasick, take a Bonine pill that morning. It is really amazing to look up from the bottom of the ocean, see 30 feet of water column above you, see the kelp forest unfold in front of you, and capture the light coming through the water and kelp.

 

We spend about three hours at a time in the water. I can usually achieve about 60 dives during that time.  Dives for me last about 30-35 seconds. There is a process of preparing to dive, called “breathe up”. Then you duck dive, head down, and try to conserve your energy as you look under ledges and rock faces to find fish. The fish we hunt are lingcods, cabezon, and rock fish. They are great eating. For lingcods, legal size is 22″, cabs are 15″.

I always dive with a buddy, and have met some amazing people on Spearboard.com and Norcalunderwaterhunters.com. People in the community are super helpful and go out of their way to teach noobs. Thanks to Finn, Sage, Ulises, Robert, Steve, and of course Jesse.

My personal bests right now are 31 feet and 36 seconds. I am trying to break 40 seconds soon. My goal right now is to shoot a 30″ lingcod, that would be a beast. My next goal after that is a Vermillion rock fish, they are quite hard to find and you have to go deeper.

 

There was a recent shark attack at Pebble Beach. It occurred actually 5 days after I had dived in the same spot. Because of that, I have a few safety rules that I follow. Place the fish on top of the float, not in the water and definitely not on your waist. The smell attracts them. Avoid making lots of splashes at the surface, that can appear like a wounded animal and they sense the vibration. I also now have started wearing a SharkShield, which emits an electrical signal around the diver and distorts their electrical sensors. It is said that it won’t protect you from a shark that is actively hunting you (since they attack at 25 mph from the bottom usually), but it will protect you from a curiosity bite if they are just cruising by. Additionally, because I am on blood thinners for an unrelated health issue, I carry a tourniquet on my float just in case. I have also been thinking about adding a camouflage paint pattern to my wet suit, to avoid looking exactly like a delicious seal. Also, speaking of avoidance, avoid areas that have lots of seals.

 

Here’s an example of a rock fish coming out to inspect me, right before I shoot it. Sometimes they hide in cracks and crevices, and other times they will stare you down. The key is not to make sudden movements that scare them away. Knocking metal parts together underwater also can draw them out. The other pic above is a large seal that came out of nowhere at quite a fast clip and scared me!

 

My buddy Finn above with a nice cabezon. And on the right, a typical haul from the ocean after a half day’s work. 4-5 fish can be filleted nicely and will feed a family of 4-5 with endless fish tacos.

 

Here’s my buddy Steve shooting a lingcod. Note the teeth. This is a pretty good size one, mid 20 inches. One thing I learned recently is to look for schools of blue rock fish, as you will typically find lingcods hunting them around the area.

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Next up for me in the hobby is getting a Level 1 Freediving certification. I’ll be doing that in San Diego in January, to learn better practices around breathe up and deeper freediving. Looking forward to it! See you in the water!

Hello world.

So here we go. My attempt at blogging. Last time I blogged was when I was with Socialtext, the first commercial wiki company. That was a long time ago 😉

Let’s start with a quick post on my family.

Leah and I have been married for 17 years. She is the love of my life. We have been through thick and thin together. She provides an amazing amount of support and love every single day we are together. We have traveled the earth together over the years and are a true unit. She also plays a mean backgammon.

Colin, our 15 year old, goes to Paly and plays baseball. He is into cars (Porsches specifically) and just got his driver’s permit which is very exciting. Colin also likes to play and watch basketball. It is amazing how many facts and figures he can remember related to baseball and basketball… so much so that he can even tell me stats from the 90’s Bulls teams!

Aidan, our 13 year old, goes to Jordan and also plays baseball. He is into fashion, video games, and right now push-ups. He is doing 200 per day for the month of December. He is quite an independent thinker and very self motivated, kind of like me. He dislikes mushrooms with a passion.

And we can’t forget Lucky, the family dog. Lucky is 7 years old now and is a Standard Poodle. That is the larger sized poodle. Leah grew up with them and now we’ve had 3 together. Having a poodle is like having a unicorn when you take them for a walk, nobody ever says “look at that dog”, they say “look it’s a poodle!”