It’s Almost Over

I can’t believe 2013 is almost over. Where did this year go? Last I knew, I was packing up a moving van to move up to the San Francisco Bay area … now I’m here, and have been for over a year.

We moved to Walnut Creek at the end of September. Couldn’t be happier, not only to get out of the crappy apartment complex we were in, in Concord, but to be in an area where things are a quick walk or trolly (fancy painted bus) ride to. Downtown Walnut Creek is awesome … lots to do. The bad news? We’re right down the street from the Apple Store now.

In other news, I spent my 33rd birthday in Cancun, and I couldn’t have been happier. It was an amazing trip filled with good memories, good eats, and great experiences. Being able to stand just feet away from Chichen Itza was phenomenal. Ever been somewhere, and just “felt” the history? Epic doesn’t even describe it fully.

Most recently I’ve been involved in a lot of happenings at work. Everything is making me stretch for skills I didn’t know I had, and look at things in a completely different perspective. The best part? I’ve got an awesome team of people who are supportive and work their butts off to help us meet our goals. Team Tapjoy FTW!

* Sorry for the total randomness and short bursts of subject … lots going on in my head *

The holidays are upon us. Spent Thanksgiving at home, not doing a lot – and it couldn’t have been better. This Christmas is going to be interesting – I’ll be spending it alone for the first time in I don’t know how many years, and I’m actually looking forward to it. Christmas has lost some of its glamour for me in the past 10 years, but it always helps me reflect on how much people have influenced me and my life. I couldn’t be more grateful.

With that, I wish you all (all 3 of you that may read this) very happy holidays, an amazing new year, and the most prosperous and fulfilling year to come.

Balancing Act

I read an article earlier today and it reminded me so much about what’s important in life. The most important thing being balance. One of the biggest issues I’ve always had was finding a good work-life balance. I normally put more of myself into my work than I did my personal life. It usually didn’t work out too well.

When I made the transition to Tapjoy and working in a big city, I assumed that for at least a little while my life would get consumed with work. Surprisingly, it’s been quite the opposite … but I still haven’t found the perfect balance. I’m getting there, though.

I’ve also realized just how much time I used to spend spinning my wheels getting Phoenix Knowledge Ventures and HostHaus off the ground. Looking back over the last year, I’ve been able to comfortably set aside a lot of the tasks for our hosting business. It runs smoothly, almost runs itself. My role now is to figure out better ways to offer an incredible service at lower costs. We’re successful so far – but it didn’t come easy.

Balance is a funny thing. It’s finding the median point between two moving objects. I’ve forever had my scales tipped, and only recently realized that there are so few issues, emails, meetings, etc. that can’t wait until tomorrow. I’ve started leaving work, and really leaving. Only checking email from my phone once a night before bed. I’m finding balance.

This November I’m taking balance to a new place. I decided that after mom’s illness, her subsequent cure, and work … it was time to take some time for me. I booked flights for Kris and I to Cancun, a week long resort stay at Hard Rock’s Cancun resort, and plan for some spa services, 2 tours, and a lot of time next to the beach or the pool.

Happy 33rd birthday, to me.

Balance.

What’s New Pussycat?

It’s been a little while since I’ve had the opportunity to sit down and focus on something other than Tapjoy or HostHaus. Tonight though, is the night. What’s going on in my head, however, is still related to work.

As of today, I’m responsible for 3 direct reports at Tapjoy. I’m being tasked with the day-to-day oversight of their work, and how we as a team work to build a better, faster, and stronger consumer service presence within the company. It’s challenging, but rewarding.

Since I started at Tapjoy, I’ve been tasked with helping my manager and my counterpart with building out the infrastructure for the CS tools we use. We manage our own servers, maintain our own database systems, and ultimately run the show in a completely removed manner, from the rest of the organization. Today was the first day since I started, that I sat back and started wondering if this was the right decision. Are we on the right track, and are we doing what’s best for not only the consumer, but for our team as well. Is my time best spent this way? Are there better ways to do it? Could we be doing it better? The answer, is a resounding ‘Yes’ to all of those. We don’t offer phone support, and do everything by e-mail … so ensuring that our systems are operational no matter what the state of affairs are with the rest of the business, is paramount. For a ragtag bunch, we’re doing a damned good job at it.

So, why does this continue to loom over my head? Is it my endless worrying that something is going to go wrong? Is it that I want to spend my time doing other things? Do we not have all of the features and functionality we need/want? Again, a resounding ‘Yes’ to all of them. The best part of it all, though, is we get to formulate and build our own way of doing things. Tapjoy isn’t a run of the mill company, the services aren’t boxed and sold on the shelf – so, why should the support we offer to our consumers be? It can’t, and the driving force behind Tapjoy wouldn’t have  it either.

So now comes the challenge of learning to balance between innovating to build a better foundation for our team, and making sure I’m helping direct the team to the best of my abilities. I’m still learning though, and that’s not only the hardest part of this role, but the most rewarding as well. I’m learning as much from this team of people, as I really hope they can learn from me. I’m quite certain though, that they’ve empowered me to learn far more from my role and from them, than I will ever be able to pass back. I hope someday I’ll be able to say it’s at least even.

Fit no stereotypes. Don’t chase the latest management fads. The situation dictates which approach best accomplishes the team’s mission.” – Colin Powell

This past few weeks, we’ve been focusing a lot of data mining, reporting and finding a cyclic pattern to recreate the ever-changing data we’ve got at our fingertips. We’re learning to drive this information into the business, and helping the business understand what drives the impression of our brand. We’re becoming an arm of brand protection, consumer advocates, and best of all … promoters of our own services. It’s fun.

That’s all for tonight … and I hope to find some time to keep writing some more. But I’ll leave you with this little ditty … question authority. Challenge the known. Innovate wildly.

“Every great advance in natural knowledge has involved the absolute rejection of authority.” – Thomas H. Huxley

 

Saying Goodbye

Saying goodbye to someone you love is never easy. Saying goodbye to two people you love is, in my experience, the most gut wrenching and emotionally draining experiences of my life – but liberating and fulfilling as well.

On July 15, some of the cousins, my aunts, uncles and dad got together at Lake Tahoe to say goodbye to my Grandma and Grandpa in a most fitting way. We rented a pontoon boat, took it out with 2 other boats, tied them up and just floated for a while. There was alcohol consumed, stories shared, and a calm relaxing that overcame the entire experience. It was the best way to help make sure that Grandma and Grandpa were together forever, at last.

My grandfather passed when I was about 7 years old. Grandma, this past Christmas Eve. After 25 years apart, they were finally back together.

We love you both, and miss you lots. Thanks for keeping watch over all of us, just like you did for so many years.

I’m a geek

So it’s almost August … and my last post was in March. Total fail on my part … but let’s see what we can get down on paper while I wait for a 43G database dump to re-import into MySQL…

I’ve been at Tapjoy for almost 10 months now, and I have no idea where that time went. Since starting there, I’ve made a few trips back to Phoenix to install some hardware in the data center for our support stuff, worked long hours, some short, and really enjoyed what I’ve been doing. Recently, my boss reorg’d our team, putting 3 people directly reporting to me, which I see as a challenge and some fun too. Our team is comprised of some pretty awesome people, who work really hard to help our customers enjoy using the Tapjoy service. The best part is, they’ve rolled with the changes we’ve made, and it’s making their jobs easier and better to do. Always a plus.

At the start of this year, I had projected we were going to take approximately 3 Million tickets this year … it’s nearing the end of July and we’re looking at being somewhere in the range of 4.5-5 Million instead. Oh, the joys of other people breaking shit. But, the upside is we have the executive teams taking a look at the data we have now, which will hopefully drive some change. On the flip side of that, my counterpart at Tapjoy is an incredibly brilliant guy, and we’ve got some ideas on the whiteboard that I think will end up helping our team a lot more in the long run – even if they don’t want to believe it right now.

The hardest part for me thus far, has been trying to help people understand that I truly am here to help make their jobs more enjoyable, and more manageable. I’m new to this “management” thing, and I’m learning as I go … but I’m not sure that I understand why I can’t get them to believe that I’m actually here for their benefit – even if it doesn’t seem like it right now.

One of the best things I’ve learned working at Tapjoy so far, is how the impact of an individual can change the way a company operates. Since I started at Tapjoy, I’ve been able to assert some of my own opinions, and methods … and today we’re operating better than we were before. This is not, by far, only my doing. This, was the result of a great team of people seeing a vision, and executing on it.

 

— this post was never completed —

It’s a Beautiful Life

If you would have asked me last July, what I’d be doing come winter time, the answer likely wouldn’t have included spending it in San Francisco. It’s amazing how quickly life can change – sometimes for the good, sometimes not.

I get up every day and go to work, and enjoy it. I’m happy with what I do, I love the people and company I work with, and I’ve always been in love with San Francisco. It’s a beautiful life.

Being able to pick up and move suddenly isn’t something I’d like to do again, but I think this came at a great point in my life. I could foresee changes coming at Citrix that I wasn’t comfortable with, and I felt like I was just spinning my wheels in my position there with no chance of advancement anytime on the horizon.

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” ― Tolstoy

I’ve always tried to do my best to move the needle, make change, drive thought. The world seems too stagnant without it. It wasn’t until after my mom got really ill that I realized, in order to change the world, I had to change myself first. I’d have to become the person I want to be through hard work, dedication, and taking chances. Picking up and moving to San Francisco with only 4 weeks notice and an 8 day vacation sandwiched in the middle, was the first time in a long time (aside from being there for my family) that I was the one moving the needle for myself. I set out to change the world.

Years ago, I met a gentleman named Saad, while working at Citrix. My first impression of him wasn’t necessarily great, but wasn’t bad either. He challenged me. He took my “I think I can” feelings and turned them into “Try. Give 100%. Evaluate.” My entire way of thinking about work changed … and shortly after I got to work for him. He gave me an opportunity I wasn’t necessarily qualified for, but was hungry for. He challenged me to give 100%, and nothing less. And, I did.

Since he left Citrix, I’ve had the opportunity to work under some other incredible people. I loved working for them, but none of them seemed to be able to challenge me in the same way that Saad could. It made me understand even more, what I wanted to do and how I wanted to do it. Without those people, I wouldn’t be here today.

I was eager and humbled when Saad called me up and told me he wanted me for a CS managers position. His faith in me continues, and I’ll continue to give 100% … he demands nothing less. He brought me into Tapjoy, and asked me to join a group of dedicated individuals who were the embodiment of a great CS teams core values. Since I started, I’ve watched them each grow in their roles, and taken my queue from them so we could make this team even better. I didn’t step into the role wanting to change the world. I stepped in hoping that the world could change me.

Show me the Postcards!

I like postcards. Actually … I like postcards a lot.

If you travel, or have some pretty awesome postcards from where you live, and feel like helping support the USPS, feel free to drop one in the mail to me! All these postcards will be added to a collage that’s going on my wall, in addition to being posted here on this website.

So … up for it? Send them here:

Chris Hesselrode
20987 N John Wayne Pkwy
Suite B104-268
Maricopa, AZ 85139

Many thanks from me and Uncle Sam! I look forward to seeing some pretty awesome cards in the mail soon!

Uhuru AppCloud

A few days ago, I got this mysterious offer to sign up for the Uhuru AppCloud and test drive the services they offer. At first glance it seemed overly simplified, almost dumbed down … and then I start to use it. Here’s what I found:

Signing up was easy. Just a few pieces of information, and away we went! Once I got signed up, I was able to deploy an application in Uhuru’s cloud by the end of the 3rd minute after starting this whole process. How awesome is that?

Once I got the app spun up (I chose WordPress), I was able to apply all the necessary updates to WordPress, its plugins and themes. Next up, was adding a custom URL so that we weren’t using ourappname.uhurucloud.com, but instead, blog.mydomain.com.

While going through the process to deploy the app, I was given the opportunity to select how much RAM I wanted allocated to it, as well as tweak some of the settings. Easy peasy.

So now we’ve got the app deployed, it’s accessible via the Uhuru URL, and our custom URL (after making some DNS changes) – now what? Use it.

Uhuru’s web interface allows you to see application performance information, including memory and storage usage, allows you to start/restart/stop/delete your app, as well as deploy new apps as well. But wait – there’s more! Uhuru also has a Windows client that I was able to download and use, too:

From within the Cloud Admin application, I’ve got the same abilities as on the website, with one exception (unless I’m missing something, which is entirely possible) – no ability to quick deploy one of the apps they make available to you.

Once you’ve got your app created, you can push your app, push updates, and manage the instance completely. You also have the ability to add/remove/change provisioned services for your app, open tunnels, view users, and browse your file structure.

Need another app? Want a quick set-up of Drupal, Joomla, Magento, Orchard, SugarCRM, Umbraco, or WordPress? Just click to add, and select it from the list:

From this screen, you’ve got the ability to download the files used to install the application, or do a cloud push (automated install). Once you make your selection (I chose sugarCRM Cloud Push), you get put back at a screen listing your app(s), where you can click and see this:

I had changed the app memory from 512 MB to 256 MB and clicked SAVE … it lets me know when it’s done, and then I can start my app. At this point, you might want to grab a cup of coffee while it automates the install and setup of your application … but don’t take too long – Uhuru doesn’t.

Once I got the app up and running, it was smooth sailing from there. Quick page loads, and reliable connectivity and infrastructure are the culprits of that I’m sure. None the less, this geek is impressed.

So, if you have some time (and a need for a PaaS solution), I’d suggest giving a good, long look at Uhuru. They’ve taken the guesswork out of hosting cloud-based apps, and you won’t be sorry you did.

Life v2.0

At the end of September, Kris and I packed up and moved to Northern California. This move had several drivers, but the biggest being the opportunity to start a new job with Tapjoy. I was excited for the challenges, but I don’t think I really understood just how much I’d come to love the changes it’s brought.

Since I started at Tapjoy, I had this overwhelming feeling that I was once again in a place that I needed to be (both personally and professionally). Every day, I get the opportunity to go to work with an incredibly talented group of people, and my knowledge and skills in the ever-widening world of customer service get put to the test as we work to build out a world-class customer service offering at Tapjoy.

While things have been a bit of a struggle financially, with the cost of moving, expanding our hosting business, and the initial higher cost of living … we’re finally getting where we need to be. 2013 is going to be a great year.

I enjoy going to work again, and I enjoy the people I work with. I feel blessed with the opportunities I’ve been given, and I just hope that I can live up to the faith that’s been placed in me.

So that’s what’s going on with me for now … more to come, when I’ve got some more time. Happy holidays!

New Chapter, New Book

Today marked my last day with Citrix. I went into the office this afternoon to drop off my equipment and to say my farewells to those I know there. Working from home has some drawbacks – like face-to-face interaction, but in my case I think this made it a little easier to move on. There wasn’t a lot of personal interaction outside well wishes via email, except for those few I knew in the office.

I’ve never had the opportunity to experience such a familial tie to co-workers outside of the military. That’s a whole different ball game though. Citrix offered me a fresh start when I was trying to get over some mistakes I made earlier in life. I never anticipated the friendships I’d make in the 6 years I was there, but the ones I did make I value greatly.

As with any job, I’m sure, it had its ups and downs. Some managers better than others, some co-workers worthy of my extended offers to help – others not so much. The ones that just couldn’t hack it, were weeded out quickly. The strong prevailed.

In my 6 years at Citrix, I got to work with some incredibly talented and dedicated individuals. These people are a big reason why I am confident in the steps I’m about to take in my career, and why I know that if I give 100% like I have always tried to do, I will succeed in any task I’m offered.

Over the years, I tried incredibly hard to dedicate my time at work to proving the very best customer experience, and lending myself to my colleagues who may have needed help or just an extra hand. It was the single most fulfilling aspect of my job.

Many chapters at Citrix were written, and while I’m sad to see the book close, I’m equally as excited to take on the new responsibilities and challenges that I will find at Tapjoy. I’m being reunited with a manager I have always looked up to and worked well with, and a former teammate from our support team. Not a bad way to start a brand new job, at a brand new company.

Now, it’s time to try and allow myself time to enjoy this vacation we’ve had planned for a few months, before packing up a truck and moving my life to the San Francisco bay area. Work starts October 1st.

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