Response Crafting

our experience with things we encounter every day

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The biggest problem with clothing industries

…from mass manufacturers to fashion designers to custom tailors, the biggest problem is: they are all fundamentally selfish.

Fashion designers? Fundamentally selfish. 

Fashion designers are motivated to bring their own visions to life; to live out their own ideas and see them manifested on runway. It is a largely self-serving act, with laughably little end value to the average human being.

You think that mass manufacturers at these shows translate these designs and water them down and bring them to us on a silver platter, purely for our benefit? No, they don’t. Because…

Mass manufacturers? Fundamentally selfish. 

Retailers – across the entire spectrum of cost – are motivated by one thing: to make money. They coerce us into consumption, churn through garments by “season,” and cut corners to keep us running from one to the next. Because the only way they make money off of their slim margins is to duplicate them as many times as possible, and the only way to duplicate the transactions is to keep us running.

So yeah, sure, they go to the fashion shows. And dutifully copy what they see. But with the sole intent of giving us something new to chase.

Custom tailors? Fundamentally selfish.

Women, overall, don’t get to enjoy the privilege of custom tailoring. It takes some serious legwork to find tailors even willing to do it, and then it’s with a palpable reluctance from the tailor.

When asked why, the number one reason – in fact, the only reason – they’ve ever given me?

“It’s too hard.”

Oh. Okay.

Not that women don’t want it, or aren’t willing to pay. Tailors just don’t want to.

e-commerce. You want to know why e-commerce doesn’t make money? Because it’s fundamentally selfish. 

Number one reason 100% e-commerce retailers are only online? “To reduce costs.” Not to serve the consumer. Not because the consumer actually prefers to shop online (most definitely don’t), and certainly not because we don’t like visiting stores.

Companies that are 100% e-commerce do it purely to serve themselves – because eliminating brick and mortar reduces costs. (And are these savings passed on to consumers? Sometimes, but usually not.)

But then e-commerce companies are actually shocked to learn that, despite all the presumed cost savings, their model doesn’t actually make money. Andy Dunn, CEO of Bonobos, wrote an article titled “e-commerce is a bear,” in which he points out that e-commerce is really freaking hard. That Amazon owns the e-commerce space. And even Amazon isn’t making money. Even Amazon is opening brick and mortar.

Because – whoa. what, now? – people like to see and touch what they’re buying.

And, moreover, people know when they’re actually being served and when companies are only serving themselves.


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“Big Magic” is a better “startup book” than most startup books

Even though she’s a writer and it’s largely a book about writing, Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Big Magic – Creative Living Beyond Fear” is a better “startup book” than most startup books. Here’s why:

Ideas are everywhere and they’re dime a dozen. Just because you “have” one doesn’t mean it’s “yours.” An idea is meaningless without execution. 

Gilbert talks about readers approaching her at Eat, Pray, Love book signings to growl at her from across the table: “that was supposed to be my book! I had that idea!”

This happens to a lot of people. “One morning you open up the newspaper and discover that somebody else has written your book, or directed your play, or released your record, or produced your movie, or founded your business, or launched your restaurant, or patented your invention – or in any way whatsoever manifested some spark of inspiration that you’d had years ago, but had never entirely cultivated, or had never gotten around to finishing. This may vex you, but it really shouldn’t, because you didn’t deliver!”

“People convince themselves that they have been robbed when they have not, in fact, been robbed… There is no theft; there is no ownership; there is no tragedy; there is no problem.”

“The best you can hope for in such a situation is to let your old idea go and catch the next idea that comes around. And the best way for that to happen is to move on swiftly, with humility and grace. Don’t fall into a funk about the one that got away. Don’t beat yourself up… Better to just say good-bye to the lost idea with dignity and continue onward. Find something else to work on – anything, immediately.”

You have to actually work.

Gilbert’s is probably my favorite TED talk, and my favorite line is how she describes her creative process as, quite simply, “working like a mule.”

“Most of my writing life consists of nothing more than unglamorous, disciplined labor. I sit at my desk and I work like a farmer, and that’s how it gets done. Most of it is not fairy dust.”

“I don’t sit around waiting for passion to strike me.”

You don’t need permission. 

It “never occurred to me to go ask an authority figure for permission to become a writer… I decided to just go make stuff.”

“You must possess a fierce sense of personal entitlement.” Not acting like a prima donna, or as though the world owes you something. Just recognizing your right to be creative.

Solve a problem you have. Don’t do it just to help others. 

An old adage in writing is “write about what you know.” Do the work that you know how to do.

“If what I’ve written here ends up helping you, that’s great, and I will be glad. That would be a wonderful side effect. But at the end of the day, I do what I do because I like doing it.”

“It’s very kind of you to want to help people, but please don’t make it your sole creative motive, because we will feel the weight of your heavy intention, and it will put a strain upon our souls.”

Experience is the best education.

Gilbert never got an advanced degree in writing. “I was suspicious of the idea that the best place for me to find my voice would be in a room filled with fifteen other young writers trying to find their voices.”

“I wasn’t exactly sure what an advanced degree in creative writing would afford me. Going to an arts school is not like going to dentistry school, for instance, where you can be pretty certain of finding a job in your chosen field once your studies are over… I worry that what students of the arts are often seeking in higher education is nothing more than proof of their own legitimacy – proof that they are for real as creative people, because their degree says so.”

So, too, should we be careful with similar environments for startups, including incubators and accelerators.

“If you’re working on your craft every day on your own, with steady discipline and love, then you are already for real as a creator… let the world educate you.”

Anguish and angst is unbecoming. 

Creators have this tendency to romanticize anguish. We approach our work with toxic mindsets, making ourselves slaves to the craft. It doesn’t have to be this way and, in fact, most great work isn’t.

Success not guaranteed. 

There’s no guarantee that people will like your work. It’s not the world’s problem that you wanted to do something. It’s not the world’s jobs to enjoy your work.

“Stop complaining. It’s annoying.”

Of course it’s difficult. If it was easy to succeed at creating something new, everyone would be.

Quit it with the perfectionism and preciousness. 

“When people talk about their creative work, they often call it their ‘baby’ – which is the exact opposite of taking things lightly.”

“I think perfectionism is just fear in fancy shoes and a mink coat, pretending to be elegant.”

“At some point, you really just have to finish your work and release it as is – if only so you can go on to make other things with a glad and determined heart.”

Done is better than good. Just ship it. Let it go.

What you produce is not sacred just because you think it is. “What is sacred is the time that you spend working on the project, and what that time does to expand your imagination, and what that expanded imagination does to transform your life.”

“Do what you love to do, and do it with both seriousness and lightness.”

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To all of the great managers I’ve ever had

Dear Every Great Manager I’ve Ever Had,

Thank you.

I am so fortunate to have worked with you. Thank you for teaching me so much about how to run a team.

You were all so different – some tough, some tender; some technical, some functional – and that’s awesome. You all did something great, and I still hold on to you and what you did.

I was all the better for having worked with you. You serve as a guidepost when I manage others.

More specifically (and I am thinking specifically):

And to the managers who trusted the team and who gave us space as long as we delivered on what you wanted…

To those who let us be a little messy and looked the other way or even spotted us from time to time and as long as we got the job done…

To the managers who received new ideas with respect, even if the suggestion couldn’t be used. Or was outright bad…

To the managers who were honest with the team, even if painfully so…

To the managers who tough-loved on us, but made sure the “love” came with the “tough” (even if we didn’t always see it)…

To the managers who demanded a lot of the team but made sure we understood why…

To the managers who demanded a lot of the team but, when it came down to it, rolled up their sleeves and helped get it done, too…

To the managers who rolled up their sleeves either way, demands or not…

To the managers who responded to problems and crises with “okay,” followed by an urgent “what do you need?” or “how can I help?”…

To the managers who took ownership of team failures and doubled down on their investment to make it right…

To the managers who were at least consistent, even when their own preferences or priorities didn’t align with – or even contrasted with – the rest of the team’s…

To the managers who never compensated for their own insecurities by breaking down their team…

To the managers who mentored…

And to the managers who also accepted great team members’ resignations with grace…

To the managers who managed with integrity…

To those who managed with reason and rationale…

To those who managed with love…

To those who managed with courage…

And, above all else, to the managers who mama-bear’d over us in any way. To those who protected us, fought back on our behalf, or stood guard while we carried on, and to those who defended us in any capacity, but especially for things that mattered most to any of us as individuals…

Thank you.

And on behalf of anyone who had the privilege of working with you: you are appreciated.

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To all of the bad managers I’ve ever had:

Dear Every Bad Manager I’ve Ever Had,

Thank you.

I am so grateful to have worked with you. Thank you for teaching me so much. About how not to run a team.

You are horrible – outright deplorable, some of you – at your job. (Seriously.) And I thank you for it. Because I was all the better for having worked with you.

Because of you, I won’t have to make those mistakes myself.

And so, more specifically:

To the managers who publicly shamed or criticized the team…

And to the managers who got off on instilling a sense of fear in their team…

And to those in either group who interpreted anxiety or fear as allegiance…

To all of the managers who took zero responsibility for their team’s shortfalls on deliverables… and to those who actively – even aggressively – threw their own people under the bus (willfully unseeing how either was a poor reflection on them as managers)…

To the managers who opened up our first conversation ever by immediately reprimanding me, based on an (incorrect) assumption about what I did or did not care about (an assumption, come to find out, was based far more on them not caring about me)…

In fact, to every manager who doesn’t care about their team…

And to every manager who’s managed through “feelings” and made emotion-rooted management decisions…

To the managers who played the hierarchy card… to those who actually and really said “because I said so” as explanation and the others who shut down conversations with “I want it my way or not at all”…

To the managers who talked about the importance of “communication” but only defined it as the “talking” half…

To the managers who forgot which of their team members were also managers and talked shit about someone (me) with one too many people (me) on the company-wide management conference call…

To the managers who fail to absorb that, manager or not, others are worthy of being treated with respect and addressed as peers, not inferiors…

To all of the managers who compensated for their own insecurities by employing double standards across the team or by trying to instill insecurity in me on basis of things like my hair…

And to all of the managers who cared more about their bonus and saving their own skin than they did about watching over their team or their workstreams…

Thank you.

Sincerely. And on behalf of everyone else who had the disguised fortune of toiling under your reign. And on behalf of all of those who will work under those of us who worked under you, now that we’ve made for better managers as a result.

Thank you.

May you someday never have to manage anymore, and be able to live in peace with your bonus.

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Place, white space, and how we make meaning.

What do you bring to a place? Why did you come here?
And now that you are, what personal history do you map into its atlas?

“No two people live in the same city.” Writes historian Rebecca Solnit in her atlas Infinite City. “A city is many worlds in the same place.”

Many worlds because even a single experience is remembered in infinite ways by those who were there, so even a single place is an infinite number of places, folded by its layers of infinite, individual stories.

“A city is a particular kind of place, perhaps best described as many worlds in one place; it compounds many versions without quite reconciling them, though some cross over to live in multiple worlds.”

We come to a place already with our own experiences and expectations. We make our own experiences while we’re there – over time we paint, in faint layers of watercolor, our own version of a place. And we come to places with the outlines of paintings already in mind.

“You take delight not in a city’s seven or seventy wonders, but in the answer it gives to a question of yours…. We select, and a map is a selection of relevant data that arises from relevant desires and questions.”

Here is my San Francisco:

I wouldn’t want to live in any era but my own. But once or twice, when I’ve been cajoled to choose another, I have said that I would pick the western US, during the late 19th Century. During the excitement and enterprising and risk-enduring pioneering of the gold rush era.

I would’ve wanted to run the railroad, of course.

But if it couldn’t be the railroad, I would have probably run a hotel where the mining men would have stayed when they came to town once a month to get paid and then spend their paychecks – i.e., the sort of hotel that was more a bar and mostly a brothel. (Sorry, Dad. And Grandma. But bear with me here.)

I think I would have made my way as a businesswoman as best a woman could in those days (the madam, just to be clear.) I would have been both the keeper and protector of the underbelly as well as the purveyor – even exploiter – of the indulgence in desire. And when I talk about this, I always add that I would have owned a horse (as most everyone did.) And that I probably would have found myself a surveying man. Maybe a (fellow?) railroader.

I would have lived against the land – against it. This, a preposition and relationship of both intimacy and tension. This is the way I would have regarded the earth – because this is the way I regard my playgrounds.

Where doing anything worthwhile requires both touch and tension.

Movement requires friction – pushing against and away from a surface – and, likewise, to build something, you have to have something to push against: rock yields to an ax, flesh yields to a touch, markets accommodate an offering.

The making of something from something, against something, in relation to something.

And this sort of thing is what brought me to San Francisco.

Meaning, more importantly: this is what I brought to it with me. This was my “question.” Regardless of era.

Solnit sees the timelessness too, naming the modern day tech professional transplant the “latecomer brother to the gold miner.” She calls out quintessential San Franciscans as: “these people who were self-made men and women, and sometimes self-invented, or just made up.”

They – we – are all people who are something out of nothing.

And that endeavor itself is one of the most pure and honest ones we can undertake.

Because everything, even nothing, is something. The endeavor only gives it a name. We create ourselves. We map our own ideas of “place.”

Things exist in “white space” or “emptiness” – the cut of a valley or ravine has a significance – a word, a mental picture – that is the thing itself rather than the absence of another thing (in this case, perhaps the earth.) Zero is a number – a quantity. Before we had the idea of zero, there were things we couldn’t do. Nil – meaning “nothing” both informally in jargon and formally in software – stands for something. And sometimes “never” can have just as much significance, maybe more, as “forever.” Maps are rendered meaningless without white space.

And all of these things exist whether we acknowledge them or not.

We can claim a thing is nothing, but it’s still there.

Solnit’s atlas of San Francisco is titled “Infinite City,” which she claims, without reconciling the two, is named after Italo Calvino’s “Invisible Cities,” effectively asserting with saying: “infinite” and “invisible” are complementary, if not one and the same.

“Nothing” and “everything” are similar, if not synonymous, in their significance and potential.

I tell you why I came here. And that the questions that brought me are shared by others. And I can also tell you that it’s personal – that my atlas has already diverged from others’, including Solnit’s – that I live in a neighborhood I almost spastically adore but she wrote off (saying that she almost never goes there.) That I work in and walk through SOMA every day, and that it inspires mixed feelings in me: opportunity and yet recognition of the blandness; rejection and embracing and a feeling of disorientation. Uncertainty. Inspiration. That the city is still not and yet already mine.

To capture a place and its meaning onto paper is both a wholly personal and yet still impossible task: “an atlas is a collection of versions of a place, a compendium of perspectives, a snatching out of the infinite ether of potential versions a few that will be made concrete and visible.”

Each of us “possesses his or her own map of the place, a world of amities, amours, transit routes, resources, and perils, radiating out from home. But even to say this is to vastly underestimate. San Francisco contains many more than eight hundred thousand living maps, because each of these citizens contains multiple maps: areas of knowledge, rumors, fears, friendships, remembered histories and facts, alternate versions, desires, the map of everyday activity versus the map of occasional discovery, the past versus the present, the map of this place in relation to others that could be confined to a few neighborhoods or could include multiple continents of ancestral origin.”

In creating our own histories, we may call things out or we may suppress them, layer over them with new paint, make something into nothing; pretend that something else is all there is. But there is never a true nothing. The invisible is infinite.

Everything, even nothing, is something. And if that’s true, then nothing is everything, too.

Rebecca Solnit, Infinite City

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Project vs. Program vs. Product Management from someone who’s done all three

Apparently there’s some confusion around what each of these three roles are from some people – mostly those who are looking to move into one of them.

Having held each of them at different times over the last few years of my career, I want to offer my insight.

One disclaimer: The titles – and roles – can mean different things at different companies, so even my having held all three should be taken with a grain of salt. That being said, from talking to others, these definitions are pretty consistent across most companies and should give you give you enough to get started.

First, the similarities:

It should be obvious enough to go unsaid, but in case it isn’t: all three roles are involved with the product. And all three are involved with the product’s “program.” They all deal in and touch feature releases.

All three heavily rely on communication. All of them also demand mitigation of risk, responding to challenge, and navigating adversity. (In other words, all of them have “manager” in their title for a reason…) :|

The difference, however, is that:

(Ready for some 1998-looking html?? Git ready for all its glory…)

PRODUCT Managers are responsible for definitionwhat will be done. 

PROJECT and PROGRAM Managers are responsible for delivery: making that happen. 

PRODUCT Managers are the CEOs of a product and project.

PROJECT and PROGRAM Managers are the COOs of a product and project.


If the product is a restaurant…


Those are the devs. Obviously.

The Product Manager decides what’s on the menu.

The Project and Program Managers work with the kitchen to make sure it’s plated on time.

The product is the restaurant. A dish might also be a product, or a dish might be a feature.

A project is the delivery of a single dish. A program might be plating The Whole Entire Menu. Plus drinks. (’cause you know you want those diners nice n sloshy. You know you do.)

Aiight. And here’s more:

Project/Program Managers vs. Product Managers

Here’s a chart that Product Managers love. I’m pretty sure Product Managers love it because it represents the product manager as being The Center Of The Universe, which makes sense, because that’s a bit how we see ourselves. (Joking.)

(Kind of.)

Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 6.50.30 PM

(OMG look! There we are! Right smack dab in the middle, right where we [do not] belong.)

Anyway. Product Managers interact with Marketing, Engineering, and Executives. They use customer insights (from Marketing) and company objectives (from Executives) to give Engineering the What’s What on What to Build. (And they also listen to feedback from each group. The good ones might listen to feedback even from Engineering. Whoanow.)

Here’s how that might look:

Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 7.53.40 PM

Again, that chart is common.

But, you might ask, but where is Project and Program Management?! Wasn’t that what we were discussing?

Yeah, Pacha. Calm down. I’ll tell you where the Project and Program Managers go.

When I do, know that there are Project and Program Managers (no, really more Directors Of The Project Management Organization) out there who would fight me on where I put their titles, nestled so humbly… but this is the reality, guys.

Here is where the Project and Program Managers go. (I also added UX. Just for freebies.)

Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 6.48.36 PM

Project and Program Managers are a supporting function, usually to Engineering, sometimes to other groupsYou may not realize this, talking to most Project or Program Managers, but that’s the reality of the state. They don’t just live with the Engineering team. They exist beneath them – a supporting role. Admin, even.

They do also take on a lot of the communication responsibility, talking to both Product Managers (or Product Owners, in Agile projects) and Executives. But at the end of the day, they’re doing this to make sure the project keeps moving.

Project and Program together here because both are much closer to one another than either is to Product. And frankly, at this high of a level and in this context (compared to Product), they are pretty similar…

That’s not to say that Project or Program Managers are lesser than Product Managers. That’s just the graphic speaking. To make them feel better, here’s another take with Project or Program in the middle:

Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 8.22.29 PM

In a service model, many would swap out the client’s executives in preference for their own internal reporting structure (because, hey, they’re the ones in charge of promotions, amirite?!) But that’s none of my business anymore.

But now let’s do a deep dive on differences:

Project vs. Program Managers

Recall that if this is a restaurant, Project Managers would oversee a single dish. Program Managers would oversee them all – plus drinks.

Project Managers manage one release (“project”) on a product at a time, but usually oversee releases on many different products (or clients, for those in service.) Program Managers manage many releases at a time, usually all on one product (and client.)

In other words, while they may each have five or ten “projects” (feature set deliveries) on their plate at once, a Project Manager’s are largely unrelated to one another, whereas the Program Manager’s are usually all related to one product (or product family), with many releases, sometimes overlapping, on a road-map.

This means the Program Manager involves increased inter-dependencies and demands richer understanding of the overall product and higher strategical oversight.

In bad scenarios, Program Managers are a bit like glorified Project Managers. (And both, at their worst, are little more than glorified admins.)


(Can’t even tell you the last time I wrote an actual “Summary!” on something…)

They’re all managers. They all touch software.

But they differ with regard to responsibility / authority. Project Managers have the lowest (and their heads aren’t typically on the chopping block.) Program Managers are in the middle. And Product Managers have the highest responsibility of the three – and also the highest risk. They decide what’s shipped to production. If it doesn’t perform, they may be cut.

If you are decisive and can stand behind your decisions (and comfortable with your job being on the line for them), Product. If you are a Guardian and just want to see other decisions executed, Project or Program. If you want to handle a bunch of little ones, Project. If you want the responsibility of executing across an entire Product, go Program.

And just being honest: if the words “product,” “program,” and “project” are entirely foreign to you, probably don’t pursue any.


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