Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The Business Value of Ethics

I recently had the honour to speak at the Ethics in Research and Innovation workshop organized by ADAPT Centre in Trinity College Dublin. The topic of my keynote was "The Business Value of Ethics", where I reflected about the need to practice ethics in research and innovation environments, and the benefits that these practices can bring to an organization or company. Here I leave some highlights from my presentation.

Why Ethics in Technology is a must?
  • Emerging technologies such as AI, Connected Home, Autonomous Vehicles or Human Augmentation have unprecedented levels of potential harm in our society if ethics are neglected.
  • The impact of these technologies can be spread from 0 to billions of people in a matter of hours.
  • High-tech is no longer a privilege of large corporations and organizations. Access, development and knowledge of cutting-edge technology is now affordable and available to SMEs as well, which account for 99% of the businesses in the EU. Practicing ethics in technology is everyone's job.

Where is the opportunity?
The main reason to practice ethics in R&I settings should be that it is the right thing to do, and our responsibility as human beings, but there are a bunch of other reasons that businesses can benefit from:
  • Ethically-informed solutions can be your core value proposition if you are targeting the growing ethically-concerned customer segment. For instance, a study claims that 70% of the American consumers are influenced to purchase products based on company's ethics.
  • Data breaches, AI biased algorithms, cyber-attacks,... they can ruin the reputation of a company within hours. Practicing ethics is a shield that does not only protect your business against future reputation damage, but it actually enhances it.
  • Ethics in technology practices are expected to follow the same path of the green business practices, that have become a legal requirement, an investor demand and a compelling competitive advantage.

Where do I start from?
You might want to check tools such as Ethics Canvas or Data Ethics Canvas, that allow teams to brainstorm about the potential ethical impacts of their projects. And you can always leave me a comment if you want to learn more.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

8 proven techniques to have shorter and better meetings


Some weeks ago I published a post on Linkedin asking my connections for their best tricks to have more effective meetingsThis is a summary of the techniques that are being used successfully in world-class companies and institutions:
  • Invites. State a clear purpose, specific agenda points and share the slides upfront (if available). Make sure you have invited only the right participants by stating the roles and responsibilities for each one in the invite.
  • Set up. Prepare the context to start on time: room, tooling, material, connectivity, etc.
  • Be on time. Start your meetings at :05 to allow people to arrive from other meetings and grab a coffee. 
  • No devices. Mobile phones are not allowed on the desk or attendees' hands. Laptops are not allowed in the room except for the presenters.
  • Stand-ups. Meetings that are about status and decision making shouldn't be long. Chair-less rooms are ideal for this. Meetings about collaborative content review or training are longer by nature, and more suitable for desks and chairs.
  • Decisions. Open the meeting with the decision(s) that have to be made before the meeting ends.
  • Strict time keeping. In many cases, a 15-minute meeting is enough. Using meeting rooms that are booked when our meeting ends is a good way to make sure they don't last longer. Set the agenda with a strict time slot for each point and restrict each speaker's time to the allotted time.
  • ROI. Ask the participants to rate their Return of Investment (1-5) on a whiteboard at the end of the meeting. If the ROI is low, figure out why and what needs to be changed.
Thanks to everyone who contributed to the discussion! Do you have other tricks? Please share them as comments to this post.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

El Lean Canvas, explicado paso a paso

Tengo el honor de ser profesor del curso Startup Innovation Lab, del Plan de Empleo para la Educación Superior, en el que jóvenes canarios en situación de desempleo descubren las principales técnicas de emprendimiento siguiendo la metodología Lean Startup.

Dado que no hay muchos ejemplos prácticos y en español sobre cómo completar el Lean Canvas, he creado un vídeo de 14 minutos en el que se explica, paso a paso, cómo completar el canvas utilizando Spotify como producto de ejemplo.



Éste es el canvas resultante. Espero que sea de utilidad al igual que lo está siendo para mis alumnos.




Sunday, March 26, 2017

Want to be more productive at work? Leave your smartphone at home


I never considered myself a smartphone addict, but it is true that I waste a lot of time checking my phone and responding to personal emails and messages. According to studies [1] and [2], the average user checks the smartphone 80 times per day for 2.42 hours and touches the display 5427 times per day. These figures might seem very high, but I tracked my smartphone usage with BreakFree for one week and they are surprisingly accurate.
A couple of years ago I started using the Pomodoro Technique at work, which blocks smartphone notifications and some websites during the work intervals (25 minutes) and allows you to check them during the scheduled breaks (5 minutes after each work interval). This really helped me be more productive but it requires self-discipline that sometimes I don't have.

What if you really can't check your smartphone, personal email or social media because you don't have access to it? A few weeks ago I started the following experiment:
  1. Activate two-step verification for my Google account
  2. Activate login approvals for my Facebook account
  3. Activate login verification for my Twitter account
  4. Activate two-step verification for my Linkedin account
  5. Give my family a phone number where they can reach you at work in case of emergency
  6. Leave my smartphone at home and go to work
It is difficult to explain how vulnerable and insecure I felt the first time I left my phone at home... but after a few weeks the results have been incredibly positive.

I cannot check my personal email, Whatsapp or social media because after enabling two-factor authentication I need my smartphone for it. As a result, I don't get distracted by notifications every few minutes and I don't proactively use these services. In other words, I can focus on work, increasing my productivity.

When I get home in the evening I receive all the notifications at a time and respond to them all within 20-30 minutes, helping me save over 2 hours a day. that I devote to more enriching activities.

In addition, people don't expect me to be always reachable anymore, giving me a wonderful feeling of freedom.

Another positive side-effect is that your accounts will be protected from unauthorised access by using two-factor authentication.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Bypass blocked ports with Reverse SSH Tunneling

Most organisations have security rules that stop non-standard ports on external resources from being accessed from the corporate network.

One frequent scenario is when you are running a website on a non-standard port (e.g., 5000) on AWS EC2 (e.g., 52.131.143.12and you try to call it from your corporate network. In most cases, if you open your browser and try to access http://52.131.143.12:5000the site won't load despite having the port open on AWS EC2 Security Group.

To overcome this limitation you can use Reverse SSH Tunneling the following way:

  1. Open a terminal and navigate to the folder where you have your PEM key to connect to AWS EC2
  2. Type ssh -i your_key.pem -NL LOCAL_PORT:localhost:REMOTE_PORT ec2_user@xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx (e.g., ssh -i your_key.pem -NL 8080:localhost:5000 ec2-user@52.131.143.12).
  3. Leave the terminal open with the SSH command running. Open on your browser and type http://localhost:LOCAL_PORT (e.g., http://localhost:8080). The website will load.


Saturday, December 3, 2016

Don't feed the zombies!

Sometimes, the best way to help the startups you care about is to let them die from starvation.
We all know entrepreneurs with terrible ideas, seeking validation, recognition and cash. I was (am?) one of them, and looking back at my startup journey I wish that I hadn't receive the awards and investment that kept me working on the wrong idea for months (although it was a great learning experience).

If you really care about your startup friends, I encourage you to follow these recommendations:
  • Feedback / Surveys. If you are asked to provide feedback about an idea, don't be accommodating. Tell them what you really think, even (especially) if it is not nice. A good entrepreneur will be grateful to learn more about your real needs. Perhaps you are simple not part of their target market.
  • Install my app / Like my page. If you don't really like a project, why do you have to install their app, register as a user or like their Facebook page? This will inflate their traction metrics, giving the startup team false expectations.
  • Crowdfunding / FFF Investment. While you might think you are helping your friends by supporting their Kickstarter campaing or their FFF (Family-Friends-Fools) round, you are probably making them waste their time creating a product nobody wants, and losing your money at the same time.
  • Awards. Entrepreneurs need a boost to their ego from time to time. However, receiving an award for a project that is not good enough could be misunderstood as real validation, encouraging founders to keep working in the same direction. Don't support any candidatures you don't really like.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

10 things that I learned from organising a meetup


For the last 9 months I have co-organised and presented Machine Learning Dublin, a meetup group started by ADAPT Centre that rapidly grew from 0 to 1350 members. Now that I have stepped back, I want to share ten lessons that I learned through this wonderful experience.
  1. Form a great team. The effort to organise a meetup is largely underestimated: it can easily take you 30 hours per event. Make sure you have a good team of at least 4 people and assign responsibilities: finding speakers, sponsors and venues, presenting, managing website and social media, registration desk, etc.
  2. Secure great venues. The event space plays a fundamental role in the success or failure of a meetup. Secure nice-looking event spaces in the city centre that are easy to find by the attendees. Some topic-related companies, startup incubators and co-working spaces might offer their facilities for free.
  3. Be picky about speakers. Select 2 or 3 good speakers per event that engage with the audience and you will see the community grow. Make sure the topics are relevant and strictly forbid sales pitches. After a few full-house events you will have great speakers queuing to participate in future events.
  4. Don't accept any sponsor. If your first events are successful, sponsors will start queuing to host your meetup at their premises. Kindly decline offers from sponsors that don't share your values, that demand too much, that don't have suitable venues or that don't help you with the logistics.
  5. Manage attendance. This is probably the trickiest part. When you announce a new event people will sign up but many of them won't turn up. Some tips to minimise the impact:
    - Keep track of no-shows and ban them if they become recurrent no-goers.
    - Send reminders 48h before the event, so that participants can RSVP NO and allow people in the waitlist to attend.
    - Announce +20% seats above the attendees limit in order to compensate no-shows.
    - It is very common to meet attendees that don't care about the talks, and they just want to recruit, socialise or have some free pizza. Kindly remind them that the event is strictly for people that are interested in the topic.

  6. Take advantage of social media. Speakers, sponsors and organisers love to be mentioned in social media. Make sure you have a catchy hashtag that can be used during the event, and monitor reactions and feedback. Tweets from your attendees are your best PR.
  7. Engage with other meetup groups. Meetup groups on similar topics shouldn't compete but collaborate with each other. Share tips, speakers and sponsors. Promote each other and organise joint meetups if possible. It will benefit the entire community.
  8. Grow your network. As a meetup organised you might become an influencer in the local community. Make the most out of it: engage with speakers, sponsors and attendees, and find ways to boost your professional career.
  9. Enjoy the talks. You will be pretty busy during the event. However, find time to enjoy the presentations and learn from the great speakers you brought.
  10. All the effort pays off. It doesn't matter how painful organising a meetup sometimes can be, it always pays off! Personal satisfaction, knowledge, connections, recognition,... and sometimes with the most valuable and unexpected rewards.