Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Easy Presentation Slides with Latex-Beamer

If you are looking for an elegant way to create slides like the ones I have presented at montreal-python, I recommend latex-beamer.
Here is a example in 6 simple steps:
  1. mkdir trial; cd trial
  2. sudo aptitude install latex-beamer
  3. wget http://mlboost.svn.sourceforge.net/viewvc/mlboost/doc/ml-python-mtl-april2009.tgz
  4. tar -zxvf ml-python-mtl-april2009.tgz
  5. pdflatex ml-python-mtl-april2009.tex
  6. xpdf ml-python-mtl-april2009.pdf
IF you don't remember latex syntax, you can use:
When you start using latex, you never want to go back. Content and visualization should be well isolated/separated.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Future of Quebec Software Engineer

Currently, new Software Engineer have an easy live. With a shortage of resources, you don't have to be good to find a job. When employers are desperately looking for people, they take what they can and don't complain too much about it (in this context, they feel lucky). As an example, ETS Software engineer students can choose between 17 intern offers. Will the situation change in the future?
  1. For a long time, Canadian dollar was low which makes Quebec and Canadian Software engineer pretty cheap, unfortunately it is changing and it is already not true anymore. They are starting to be expensive. Many software jobs in Québec are related to US company having an office in Canada and many others rely on US clients.
  2. Easy tax credit for experimental development and scientific research will be harder to get since Canadian governmental is back to deficit and Quebec is facing aging population and reduced number of tax payers. For more info, check this post.
  3. Outsourcing, a cheaper and more accessible alternative. As a example, when more Indians will be able to speak comprehensible English, they will become a real danger. Many companies start using cheap remote resource or use outsourcing service like rentacoder to lower down their cost.
  4. Due to globalization and near US market, many companies will prefer perfectly fluent English average engineer as oppose to great engineer with lack of English skills.
  5. Due to globalization and near US market, many companies will promote perfectly fluent English average engineer as oppose to great engineer with lack of English skills.
Unlike Doctors with powerful Professional College, software engineer don't have reserved acts that reduce competition and provide job security, they don't have the luxury to not be competitive.

What should future Francophone engineer need to success and be more competitive in this changing landscape?
  • They need to be fully bilingual (btw, many company don't consider Francophone university because they know that most of their software engineers aren't bilingual)
  • They need management skills. Ability to manage technical people is rare and critical to the success of projects, company are more aware of it and are desperately looking for it. Increase success rate of project is critical.
  • They need leader and decision maker, not only a work force.
  • They need writing and communication skills. Technical people who neglect this will pay the price in the long run. Without those skills, it is hard to evolve in the upper level of a company.
  • They need conflict, negotiation skills. Engineers forget that their job is on average 20% technical and 80% HR related. Resolving human related problems is important part of software engineer work.
But the most important is that companies need decision makers who see the big picture, not only throw-able/easy replaceable work force.
Outsourcing is out the door and software engineer have to better understand the idea of comparative advantages because their cheaper advantage is getting away.
Too expensive non perfectly bilingual engineers with lack of management and communication skills jobs will face increase outsourcing pressure.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Disruptive business model: Lew Cirne, serial entrepreneur on the future of Enterprise Software etc.

I really like New Relic founder (Lew Cirne) point of view about the evolution of business model with the web. Basically, massive sale overhead is not require anymore which lead to reduce drastically software cost and free resource to do better software. Most of the time, software satisfaction is low because monetary resource are sucked by so many overhead layers and isn't use to make better software. You should read his posts:

Software transition: recipe for a disaster

Everyone knows that software has a life cycle and dies at some point. If your software is part of your day to day operations, you can't fail in managing its transition. If you want to reduce the probability of success of the transition, here are some rules to follow:
  1. Don't plan transition
  2. Don't communicate transition plan if you have one
  3. Promote non-skilled people to decision positions
  4. Kill initiative/ignore message (ex: kill messenger and think the problem is gone)
  5. Avoid long term planning (ex: use argument like business moving too fast)
  6. Don't put a technical team lead
  7. Don't do follow-up of team requests
  8. Don't involve HR to smooth transition
  9. Don't hire pro-actively
  10. Don't prepare a B plan
  11. Don't involve and/or update your team on the transition plan
  12. Don't give overall project responsibility to anyone
  13. Stay in a reactive mode
  14. Don't communicate info in daily meeting
  15. Don't ensure you have a good pulse of your team
  16. Give too much power to people who don't understand software process
  17. Like Greenspan, dream the magic hand will fix everything magically (people might not compensate for bad decisions eternally)
  18. Expect people to stay
  19. Don't make difference between maintenance & development cost
  20. Let non technical people take technical decisions
  21. Ignore problems
  22. Don't recognize people work in crisis
  23. Allow managers to not be able to evaluate technical people
  24. Consider Indian outsourcing can solve everything
  25. Think people are easily replaceable
  26. Don't talk about carrier evolution to your crew
If you are lucky, you will have to replace your team one by one but they could resign all in a short time and put your business in a major crisis situation. Don't forget, there is no free lunch.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Tax credits (RS&DE): the new reality = good news for startups

Last month, I went to the CEIM (centre d'entreprises et d'innovation de Montréal) to see a presentation on the new reality of tax credit program in Canada starting in 2009. RS&DE tax credit for scientific research & experimental development has changed drastically. Initiate in 1986, the program claims reached 1.5 billion in 2000 and ~4 billions in 2008 at the federal level. Due to the increase of claims (20K claims 2008), non standard claims and unwritten need to reduce tax credits, an important change happened. Many companies can't send anymore non standard endless novel to lost government officials. Corporation need to send 1400 words to explain the scientific advancements, the problems/technical incertitudes/risk and the technology and scientific content. With 15% more staffs and 1400 words limit per claim, way more people can validate your claims. Knowing we are back in deficit, there will be pressure to reduce accepted claims. It will be way harder for cheaters to try to loose the reader because endless novels is no more possible (romans fleuve). Btw, CEIM offers interesting services.
It will be an harder sell for lawyers firms specialized in R&D tax credit paperwork who can't use their government bodies as easily as before to ensure their clients get their tax credits. This is a good news for startups and bad news for the ones who are making things up because it means less useless work for us, more time and more money to create real wealth.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

VC founding & StartupCamp 6

Montréal StartupCamp 6 was quite interesting. As raised during the unconf discussion, French language technology entrepreneurs seems to prefer bootstrapping their companies then looking for VC foundings (ex: FeelingSoftware/Carré Technologies/DokDok/Vizmatic/QMining/Aptats/Nexyka etc.). keynote Dave McClure presentation on how to create good pitch to investors was very good:
  • Start with problem not solutions
  • Look for high reaction signal (good and bad)
  • Stop adding features
  • Focus on customer reactions, real-time as possible
  • Volume->Cost->Conversion | acquisition/activation/retention/referral/revenu...
  • etc.
VCs are basically non-risk taker and followers as sheep and should be treated accordingly.
But what's the point of getting VC founding for software startups? They don't need much more then computers & time. With VC founding you could get 6-12 months where most of it will be re-reimbursed with R&D tax credits. Basically, they give you cash advance for an important share of your company for a ridicule risk. VC mains arguments are:
  • It will allow you to be the first in the market, its bullshit, everyone knows it is the timing that is the most important.
  • 10% of 15 millions is better then 100% of 1 millions...but you still will do most of the work with more stress from investors and you might get 10% of 2 millions. Most entrepreneurs start their company to take control and not getting back to a slavery mode.
Yes it could allow you to build your product faster to meet a customer needs but better, they could make clients connections which has real value. I think that Steve Dekorte point out exaclty what I profoundly dislike about VCs and haven't presented clearly in a previous post, VC like professional CEO are short term peoples as oppose to founders. With a difference cost function, you will automatically get clashes which lead to frustrations, politics....basically inefficiency due to uncommon vision.

Andy Nulman Keynote presentation was interesting in the perspective of importance of a partner and the need to adapt but the mercantile conclusion was a pathetic anglo-saxon point of view: you could make more cash by doing the chicken dance then doing something interesting.

Phil Telio announcement about the new startup dedicate house notman was great for Montréal. I will definitely apply many of the stuff learned there. As an example, if you are a founder and will move to the CEO position, you better start delegating what you are better at because it will allow you to improve others skills and will make other supervision very efficient.