Where do I even begin? The last month has been crazy hectic for me… in the best possible way. I finished up another successful work term with Sybase in Product Management (PM) and then took a two week break visiting Anaheim and Calgary.

I completed my fourth term at Sybase (fifth overall) and this was one of the busiest, but most rewarding terms. During one of my evaluations, my managers told me, “As the number of work terms you complete increase, so do the expectations.” Not only was this my second to last work term, but also my fourth at Sybase. I knew that the expectations were high and that the bar had been raised. I needed to work hard in order to get the most out of the term. That’s exactly what I did, I jumped into the PM experience, the team embraced my openness and allowed me to work on a wide range of tasks.

I truly believe that a unique experience that I gained from Sybase came as a result of my returning for a fourth term. With over a year of experience at Sybase under my belt, I had a clear understanding of the company’s vision and knew the product very well. Because of this, I was able to make responsible decisions and ones that were aligned with the company’s goal. It’s a great feeling to know that your opinions matter and that your work influences people. This kind of experience was invaluable and a big part of what I gained this term.

Almost immediately after the term completed, I flew down to sunny Anaheim, California. I spent a week there, flew North back to Canada and landed in the winter wonderland of Calgary, Alberta. It was the hardest thing packing for these two trips because most of the clothes that I wore in either places were mutually exclusive! Needless to say, I had to pack a lot of clothes and layers were an important part of my attire during those weeks. It was an fun-filled break and I needed it to clear my head before diving back into the books.

What are my plans for next term? Well, it’s up in the air for now… I’ll be going through the first round of interviews. I hope that I can build upon my current experiences and will update as soon as I know what I’ll be doing.

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Chromium OS

November 29, 2009

Wow, it’s been way too long. Over a month? I think that’s the longest gap ever… It seems like I’m busier when I’m working than when I’m studying =S, go figure.

What’s the hottest thing in technology right now? Google’s Chrome OS, that’s what. And I got a chance to test it out for the first time last week. I’m actually doing some work with Google Gears now, so I wanted to test it out on Chrome OS. Well, guess what… It doesn’t have support for Gears yet!! Why!?! Beats me. I’m going to assume that they’ve just left it out for development and will incorporate it in the final build.

In any case, my overall impression of Chrome OS can be summed up in one word, “depends”. Your experience of Chrome OS really does depend on how you plan on using your computer. If all you plan on doing is surfing the internet and primarily using it for web applications, then sure it may be a great solution. But what about people who need CPU intensive applications like video editing and gaming? I don’t know how they plan on targeting that market, but right now it seems to only consider those heavy web application users. It’s still a fresh concept and is definitely still being changed, but I just don’t see myself buying into this “Everything in the cloud” phenom. Only time will tell though. They’d need a pretty convincing argument to make me switch.

(I really hope to update soon.)

In case you’re not constantly keeping track of my life and which school or co-op term I’m in… I thought that I’d just let you know that I have started another work term. I have once again chosen to return to Sybase (for those keeping count, this is my fourth term there). Many people have asked me why I keep returning to Sybase. The short answer is because the atmosphere is great, the work is challenging and as one who is familiar with the culture and services of the company, you get to work on more important projects. Some have argued that it is necessary to  try different jobs in order to discover what you really like. To some extent, that is true. However I really enjoy what I’m doing and in the software world, nothing is ever stagnant. The maturity of the product is always developing and the stage of  the “software life cycle” always changes as well. Contributing and being a part of different stages of the life cycle of one company and one product over a long period of time has definitely given me a broader understanding of how software is developed. It’s never a dull moment!

microsoft_silverlightRecently I had the chance to work with Microsoft Silverlight (web application framework) Essentially, I was asked to demo SQL Anywhere’s compatibility with Silverlight. So, I developed this application with Silverlight and incorporated as many new features as I could cram into it to push it to its limit. I truly believe that Silverlight has gone a long way since it’s first release which was mainly targeted at streaming video (like Flash). However, it has evolved into a fully-fledged web application framework that businesses can use to create professional data-driven web sites quickly and easily. I watched a lot of talks from MIX 09 and was thoroughly impressed at how simple it was to hook up our database to Silverlight using the ADO.NET Entity Framework. But, it didn’t just stop there. With the latest version, Silverlight 3, Microsoft developed something called the “Silverlight Navigation Framework”. I thought this was absolutely brilliant. It only took a couple hours to get a beautiful (not to mention customizable) site up and running connected to a database with all CRUD (create, read, update, delete) operations. The great thing about Silverlight is not only its ability to display data efficiently, but also in an elegant manner. I’m working on getting this demo wrapped up and still I’m finding new features to play with! I hope that developers would really give Silverlight a try because it has a lot to offer and potential to take a site to the next level.

As I sit here and ponder about my next work term, I realize that my view of Product Management (also referred to as Program Management or PM) has broadened throughout the course of my last work term. After my experience at Sybase, I can say that my glimpse into the PM world has stirred in me a desire to pursue a similar position.

I saw that PM is a very unique role in the technology industry. Although it is not compulsory to have a PM team, like it is to have a development team, I think that all software companies should adopt a team of product managers. Why? Because it is the PM’s responsibility to link the market needs with the code in the software. That is not to say that they write the code themselves, but rather they communicate effectively with the developers so that features can be implemented that satisfy the customers.

It is just as important to have people who develop the vision, write out the specs and work with the customers, as it is to have people who write the software. The PM’s and the developers are not rivals, but co-exist mutually in harmony [sort of]. Although the two parties may not see eye-to-eye on some decisions, the best features usually come out from constructive disputes during a brainstorming session.

This term proved to be a great learning experience and one of my busiest terms. I had the opportunity to work on a number of interesting projects:

– A proof-of-concept port of phpBB with offline synchronization
– Usability testing on the customer install/upgrade experience for the latest minor release
– Online PHP Developer Centre
– Features that would increase SQL Anywhere’s web server compatibility
– Customer demos and code samples-
– Whitepaper to get more out of the SQL Anywhere Monitor
– Edited a developer viewpoint
– Developed a prototype of a tool that addresses inquiries by potential customers and solves 30%-40% of the problems in the online forums
– Utility for Sybase’s latest announcement with Amazon Web Services

Many times, I worked closely with software developers to ensure that the functional specifications were met. That is, the feature will work the way a customer expects.

I learned that the build or install team plays a crucial part in a software company because their work is the first aspect of the product a potential customer encounters. If the install fails or it is unintuitive, what does that say about the product itself? First impressions are crucial. That’s why our installation process had to be put through careful usability testing.

I also met with members of the documentation team to make sure that they understood how my whitepapers would be presented (consistent form, terminology, and tone).

I finished off the term by doing some work for Sybase’s first venture into Cloud computing. I think it’s a huge step for Sybase as they announced earlier today that they’re working with Amazon Web Services to offer Sybase software in Amazon Elastic Compute (EC2) environments. It’s really awesome to be able to work on things that count and reflect the direction of the company.

The greatest part was seeing how my contributions were affecting the final product. At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about – a better product. My manager once told me, “As PM’s, our job is to make the product better for future customers.” So that takes foresight, creativity and some risk-taking. It may not always work as you planned, but when it does, it is extremely rewarding.

I wrapped up my fourth work term today. I had a great time working as a Product Manager at Sybase, learned a lot and gained valuable experience. This being my third term at Sybase, I wanted to fully leverage my previous experiences to get the most of out these fourth months. So I fully committed this term to develop my skills as a Product Manager. I guess it helps that I was very enthusiastic about the work too =).

I gave an “End of Term Presentation” today and as I went through some of the projects that I worked on, I surprised even myself with the amount of work that I accomplished this term! It was one of those terms where you enjoy going to work and being challenged by the projects given to you. It may sound cliché, but it was true. Work is so much better when you like it!

Now, I have a few days to rest before hitting the books again. 3A starts on Monday. Meanwhile, I should probably get started on that work term report…

I’m currently in my fourth work term and that means that I am currently enrolled in the fourth installment of PDENG… 45. This particular offering of PDENG is quite different from the others because of one major component. We are required to work in an asynchronous group to complete a response to an RFP (Request for Proposal)! I’ve never done anything like this before in my life, I’ve never had to work in a group where we could never see each other and have never met each other. It was going to be a unique and challenging experience. Going into this project, I had no idea how it could’ve possibly worked. I was very much interested in meeting my group members and finding out what kind of solutions we could come up with. I was not so much interested in what we were going to write in our response (though very important), but more so how we were going to execute the whole project. Now, at the end, I must say that I’m thoroughly impressed and very thankful for the internet, online web applications and cloud computing.

In the beginning, our plan was to use a content management system (such as Drupal) to check in all our changes and additions. However, that concept was ditched very quickly =P. No one wanted to download and check in every change, every time. So, we decided to use  GoogleDocs to store one document and everyone would just add their contributions to that one isolated (but shared) document. We even used GoogleTalk to have all our group meetings! So, the communication and content was handled by the services offered by Google. If it weren’t for these two applications, our jobs would’ve been much harder. We might’ve had to send a document around every single time a change was made. That would’ve been hard to keep track of changes because, some might add or edit an old copy of the document. GoogleDocs was definitely something we took full advantage of.

I really liked how it allowed multiple people to be working on the same document. I remember at the end of the project, we had 4 or 5 members all editing the document to finalize changes. This definitely saved a lot of time. If we only had one copy, only one person could work on it at a time, otherwise the document may be out of “sync”. It was really nice to see how technology evolves and even affects how courses are taught.

Two years ago, when I started my internship at Sybase, I saw posters all over the place with the words “One Sybase. One Team. One Billion.”. I pondered over this slogan for a long time actually, wondering what it meant… Finally, I was informed that Sybase was aiming to earn an annual revenue of $1 billion in 2007. Did we reach it? Of course we did.

Now, one year later…

Sybase CEO, John Chen reported that Sybase topped last year’s record earnings and finished with the best quarter and year in company history! Wow!

I’d like to say that I played a role in helping them achieve this accomplishment, but I’m just happy to be a part of it =D.

> CNET News: Sybase earnings sail past Street’s expectations
> WirelessWeek: Sybase Bests Itself
> Oakland Tribune: Sybase’s early bet on wireless paying off

I’m just getting settled here in my role as a Product Manager (PM) and things are going quite well. The job is very interesting and the people here are great! I really like the atmosphere and the wealth of knowledge in our closely knit team of PMs. Yesterday was the first bi-weekly team meeting of the year, and my first ever. This time is usually used to inform other members of the team of current projects and developments throughout the past two weeks. Just going around the table, I was amazed to see the broad spectrum of technologies our team is responsible for. It seems like every PM has their own product or feature that they manage and own. Although everyone was taking ownership of different aspects of a product, the whole team was discussing and offering ideas on how to better improve that part. I really enjoyed the banter going back and forth, and also the ideas being tossed around. It just shows how much a PM needs to know about the technology around them. It’s our job to keep up-to-date with the latest and greatest innovations, and even keeping an eye on our competitors. This is how we can get one step ahead. It’s about knowing what is out there and what isn’t out there, then finding out what customers want and filling that need. We’re pushing the boundary of technology in hopes of capturing a “new market”.

So far, second week of work has been great!