Three Weeks Down!

Hey everyone! Three weeks down since I left the cushy office job before this leap into the unknown. Well semi-unknown. Some people who have taken the leap have done very well out of it. Anyway, here are some of my thoughts at this stage:

Have you ever had the following experience?
You walk into a book store because you need to buy a single book. As you walk through the store, all these books shout to you to grab them. After a little while, you come out with a neat stack instead of just the one book.

Three weeks down

Woohoo! Lots of reading to do.

The same thing can be applied to any of my supermarket visits: You just need to grab some eggs. But oh no, they tricked me again. You actually buy a little snack, a bar of chocolate and those juicy nectarines. Yum! Everyone deserves a healthy treat, right?

Turns out that the singular project I had set my eyes on can be added to that list of scenarios. It has now received siblings after three weeks. I just couldn’t resist adding a couple of other projects to my to-do list. Currently, I’ve got three or four separate (but related) projects. I’ll go into more detail a bit further down. First off,

What the hell have I been up to?

Good question! The last three weeks have been rather fuzzy. I’ve done a million and one things but sometimes it’s quite hard to identify them retrospectively. Life has been very similar to what it was like with a day job, except, well there’s no more day job to go to. This frees up a chunk of space in the day. I’ve mainly been filling it with trips to the library to milk the free WiFi and electricity (hehe, saving £ on my bills). Once there I’ve actually been pretty good at working/researching and getting stuff done. Amazing what not having a regular income can do to your productivity levels.

The research I’m currently doing is probably 90% related to the digital marketing industry. Naturally, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that the projects I’m busy with currently fit into that space. But I’m also glancing sideways into the eCommerce space as I think there are some interesting opportunities flitting about there. Oh hello eCommerce, you fit pretty neatly into the digital marketing slot too? How nice of you!

As I set out on these projects, I initially expected the research to be done after two weeks. Of course, once you actually start the research, one realises how much there is that you don’t know. It seems that after every article I read, more questions pop up. I have read numerous resources about content marketing, email marketing, SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and eCommerce.
I also don’t think I’m anywhere near being finished which is slightly worrying.
But dot not fret. Instead of continuing my research I’m going to start practising and put some of this knowledge to use this week.

Classic! The library WiFi decided it was going to have a long weekend. Guess I’m going to have to write this in MS Word and upload it later.

What are some of the difficulties I’ve encountered?

Hmm… so one thing I’ve found difficult tonight is trying to un-Caps the above headers. WordPress has decided that it likes capitalising all my headers. That was a good hour that I spent trying to find a solution (it was fruitless I might add). EDIT: Well that’s weird. After I hit publish, the caps disappeared and were replaced by beatiful lower case characters…. I’m at a loss. At a happy loss 🙂
Generally speaking, working by myself seemed a bit daunting at first. I remember how hard it was to study by myself  at university when I didn’t have the pressure of a deadline in front of me. So these were some of the difficulties I encountered in the last three weeks:
The biggest issue I’ve had is knowing where to start. When you’re chopping and changing directions and doing so many things at once, it’s hard to keep a track of what is going on and what you need to prioritise.
One of my lifesavers (and time savers) has been a little trusty notepad that I take with me to my library sessions. At the beginning of the day, I keep a track of all the important tasks I need to get done (or at least started). It also serves me as a notepad for any interesting ideas that manage to float into my brain. As I mentioned in a previous post, there’s a really satisfying feeling when you can tick off an item from your list. It feels like you’re getting things done quicker!

Another thing that has been difficult is figuring out a regular routine. It would be easier if I had a regular desk space, but working from home involves too many distractions (my bed is probably one of the biggest culprits, calling for me frequently).
The library on the other hand is only open from 9.30am to 5.00pm. Ideally I’d like to be working from at least 7.30am onwards and finishing around 6.00pm (Yes, it’s a long day, but I actually enjoy it and it doesn’t feel like work). This means I have to break up my day and find somewhere to go to when the library is not open. Annoyingly, the length of these blocks is only 1-2hrs each, so not really worth finding a coffee shop or other hang out in between. So I usually just spend those sessions at home.
These 1 or 2 hour sessions are pretty productive though, as I find I get to start things with a fresh perspective in the morning or wrap some loose ends up at the end of the day. Still, I feel like I’m losing some valuable time with these annoying interruptions. A solution has yet to be found!

Anyhow, these issues are relatively minor compared to having run up a dead-end and finding that one cannot make money in the project one has set out to achieve. However, in that situation I could be having a holiday now… right?

Summary on Three Weeks Down

I’m really enjoying it thus far. It will take a bit longer to get even a tiny slice of income. But like with all good things, I just need to wait and be patient. Although truthfully I would have liked to have been a little bit further down the path of having something concrete in the pipeline. That being said, I’m still interested in worthwhile opportunities that pop up (i.e. working for or with someone on something different) as I feel like these activities can run on the side in my spare time.

Anyhow, that’s all from me right now. Hoping I’ll be able to post more progress going forward!

Happy Monday!

Book Review: The End of Jobs

I have written about how I had been contemplating taking an entrepreneurial route. One of the resources I used to justify this wish was Taylor Pearson’s book. I wanted to publish a book review of The End of Jobs by Taylor Pearson. Whilst reading the book, it accurately condensed and connected some of the trends I had vaguely noticed over the last few years. As the title suggests, the premise of the book is that we are in the middle of a paradigm shift where globalisation, technological change and the internet are shifting the landscape of the western workforce. The 20th century employee is being replaced by another person: the 21st century entrepreneur.

The End of Jobs - Taylor Pearson
Throughout the 20th century, an individual was presented with the following career path: You finish High School, maybe go to university/college, join a big company afterwards and work your way up from there. Taylor goes through a lot of detail arguing that this is no longer valid for us in the 21st century. Below are some of the book’s sections I enjoyed the most.

The End of Jobs: Cynefin

What the hell is Cynefin?! This is actually one of my favourite takeaways from the book. The Cynefin framework was developed by Dave Snowden. The framework essentially divides “work” into four separate fields.
The simple field is “the one where the relationship between cause and effect is obvious; anyone can apply a best practise to solve a simple problem”.
The complicated field is where cause and effect requires analysis and investigation. In this one “investigation and/or the application of expert knowledge” is often required (e.g. a tax accountant or a cook).
The complex field is where cause and effect need to be investigated and probed. This is perhaps a field where one is treading into new territory albeit in a controlled environment (e.g. research where things can be tried and tested in a scientific manner).
Lastly, the chaotic field is where something completely novel is experienced. I’m thinking of a crisis manager or problem solver. Taylor mentions the example of venture capitalist and former CEO Ben Horowitz having to take his company public in the wake of the tech bubble burst in 2001 (amidst company layoffs and plunging sales). Not the easiest task in the world to ask investors for money when stock markets are collapsing and your company’s prospects seem to be diminishing rapidly.

I find the Cynefin framework interesting as it helps to break down and place various types of work into these four categories. It also helps to identify which jobs current technology will be able to replace.

A look back through history

end of jobs 03

What type of jobs were available in Egypt in ancient times?

Taylor also looks at historical development of how society moved forward. What did one need to be the dominant player an era? What was the scarce resource that could leave you with the upper hand at the negotiation table?
In the Middle Ages/Early Renaissance the dominant players were the landowners. Aristocrats and nobility who had land could were in control. The main output in that era was agriculture from which most of the other major industries derived value.
Shortly before the industrial revolution, the capital owners were the dominant players (think bankers and other people with liquid capital). Taylor illustrates the Rothschild banking family as the prime example that exerted control over society. Trade became more important and the industrial revolution required large amounts of capital.
Finally we culminate in the era where corporations dominate the landscape. In this era, measurements and scientific reasoning became important. Knowledge was key and widespread qualifications for individuals arose. Credentials to testify that individuals understood certain subject matter and could follow set processes and navigate complicated jobs.
Today, Taylor argues that technology and software has become so good that many of the simple jobs can now be automated, eliminating a significant hurdle for setting up certain kinds of businesses. That means that certain kinds of simple jobs that were once prevalent have disappeared and have been replaced by software. Similarly, many of the complicated roles are now being outsourced and automated. Machines and technology have taken on the simpler aspects of these jobs. For the other aspects, hordes of skilled workers in low-income countries have been contracted to fill these jobs for a fraction of the cost.

Does this mean the end of all OUR jobs?

end of jobs review 02

Will the corporate office be a thing of the past?

Naturally, you could now say, well we’re screwed. Labour costs less in other countries so who will want to employ us. This is exactly the point that The End of Jobs highlights. And instead of despairing, Taylor notes that technology, whilst also having caused an exodus of jobs is also a positive for entrepreneurs. The technological automation delivered by software has helped many small companies proliferate and target niche markets that were previously uninteresting for larger corporations. This is where Taylor’s book really hits its message home.
As more and more jobs are automated via technology and outsourced to lower cost countries, more people discover the opening that can be filled by entrepreneurship. Starting and running a small business  fits into the Chaotic and Complicated moulds that the Cynefin framework highlights. It will take a while for technology to be able to tackle those areas.

Overall, The End of Jobs is a well researched book which highlights some of the key developments of the last decades in the labour markets and technology. I would recommend anyone to have a read for themselves and at $5, it’s a steal!