ignite tampa bay 2016

If you’re looking for something interesting to do in Tampa this Thursday, may I suggest attending Ignite Tampa Bay? You’ll see interesting presentations given in a very interesting way.

The Ignite format’s motto is “Enlighten us, but make it quick!” It takes your standard speaker-and-audience formula and adds some interesting constraints:

  • Each speaker is limited to exactly 5 minutes for his or her presentation.
  • Each presentation is accompanies by 20 slides, no more, no less.
  • The speaker has no control over when the slides advance; they automatically advance every 15 seconds.

The five minute limit forces speakers to whittle their presentations down to the essential points they’re trying to make, and the auto-advancing slides make it necessary to practice, practice, practice.

Want to see an example of an Ignite presentation? How about mine from last year’s event, in which I explain in five minutes why the existence of Florida Man and Florida Woman is a good thing:

This year’s speakers and presentations are:

  • Rich Castellano: The Power of Smile
  • Aria Mia Loberti: How to Gain Superpowers
  • Niel J. Guilarte: Connecting the Podcast Community via a Documentary.
  • Jacob Redding: Next Wave of Open Source
  • Marc Ensign: One thing that Matters
  • Lisa Kirchner: Community Makers Make Change
  • Steve Lazaridis: Bread
  • Joran Oppelt: The Future of Religion
  • Sean Davis: How You Can Learn to Crush That Little Voice Inside Your Head Saying…
  • Todd Allen Joseph: A (Very) Brief Introduction to Cognitive Science
  • Sandra Scott: How 3 Letters Changed Our Life
  • Carl Vervisch: The Millennial Problem
  • Ramesh Sambasivan: How Coworking in a Library is Like a Silent Disco
  • Kyle Matthews: How We’re Beating Childhood Cancer with Computers
  • Brian Willis: Back to the Future – Tampa’s Streetcar Neighborhoods Can Save Us
  • Sven Boemeester: Tampa Bay the Next Dubai of the Americas
  • John Foster: Bee Sting
  • Jason Fraley: Trust – the main ingredient for flight
  • Bill Carlson: Cuba
  • Dr. Sean Stringer: Healing with Nutrition and Natural Therapies

The remaining tickets for Ignite Tampa Bay are general admission tickets, which set you back $19.50 a person ($17.50 plus a $2.00 processing fee). They’re available online here.

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Yet another reason to live in Florida

by Joey deVilla on June 26, 2016

We know that it’s the little niceties that make life better:

full bar available from 7 am

Photo by Erinn Day.

If I want a breakfast bourbon, then by damn, I’m gonna have me a breakfast bourbon.

englewood florida

Englewood, Florida.

The menu above is for Zeke’s Uptown Bar and Grill, located in a relaxed little town called Englewood, just south of Accordion Bay. Here’s what they have to say about themselves in the “Our Schtick” section of their website:

We cut our own meats, make our own sauces, use the highest quality ingredients and do our darndest to provide you with an exceptional value. We’re casual for sure, but we’re not a fast food service.

Our menu items are complex, all items are prepared fresh to order and take skill, love and some time to cook. We hope you will come to relax, take time to unwind with friends and enjoy the layers of flavor we will deliver to your table.

Remember, it’s Englewood — there’s nothing to rush to. The beach isn’t going anywhere and the fish will bite when they’re ready.Isn’t that one of the many reason’s we’ve picked this slow moving, friendly Old Florida village to call home?

I’m going to have to pay a visit to Zeke’s the next time I’m down their way, and by damn, I’m having me a nice breakfast drink.

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Notes from the first Tampa Company Culture meetup

by Joey deVilla on June 24, 2016

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Yesterday, a new and potentially scene-changing Tampa Meetup group convened for the first time: the Tampa Company Culture Meetup, which I attended with Anitra and our friend Shelley.

Organized by Saxon Baum and Taylor Wallace, co-founders of the startup WeVue, it’s a gathering of Accordion Bay people who are interested in building good cultures in the companies where they work. I attended the meetup and “worked the room”; I found that the attendees by and large were the sort of folks who actively involve themselves in their companies and communities. Among the crowd were local Agile community leaders Jessica Wolfe and Ed Martin, as well as Tampa Bay WaVE entrepreneur-in-residence and all-round super-mentor Kenneth Ervin Young.

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The event took place at CoWork Ybor, a coworking space attached to the Blind Tiger Café (which itself is a cafe attached to a clothing store) located in Ybor City, a historic warehouse neighborhood turned entertainment district. Not coincidentally, the meetup’s featured speaker was Roberto Torres, CEO of the Blind Tiger Cafe, CoWork Ybor, and Black and Denim, and he gave an informal talk on how he came to understand that company culture can help drive business success.

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Roberto started by talking about his start in the business world as an accountant. “It’s not creative work,” he said, “In accounting, if you get creative, you go to jail.” He said that accounting burns out a lot of people, citing its high rate of churn, especially in the area of auditing. A lot of it has to do with the fact that as an auditor, you’re often seen as an “angel of death”, who “inflicts pain” and whom “everyone detests”.

His first exposure to the power of company culture to transform the work experience was when he worked for a company that imported its business culture from its parent company in the Netherlands. That firm took a greater interest in employee well-being by taking pains to create a comfortable work environment and sense of belonging, foster mentoring, a sense of community, and work-life balance within the organization, and provide perks like free food.

He also learned from Zappos’ “company culture tour” (which I took during my days at Microsoft; it’s worth taking, and a refreshing change from the rest of Las Vegas), where he saw their “wild and crazy” day-to-day operations first hand, and saw how employees who were truly engaged with a company produce more, contribute more, and even provide their company with some of its best ideas. He took that concept and ran with it at Blind Tiger; “For instance, half of our menu is employee-suggested.”

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Roberto said that the company culture at Blind Tiger has three rules:

  1. Strive to make the best coffee
  2. Treat coworkers and customers with a smile
  3. Have fun

His approach is best described as “the opposite of Starbucks”, which is largely about throughput, and where employees are by and large interchangeable cogs in a larger machine. Blind Tiger’s approach is to create relationships with its customers; he says “Every time there’s an opportunity to talk with a customer is an opportunity to create a brand ambassador”.

“When customers come in, they’re coming in to fulfill a basic Maslow need. They’re thirsty, they’re hungry,” ha said. Blind Tiger’s employees fill that need at first, but then establish connections with the customers to fulfill needs higher up on the hierarchy. The goal is to surpass people’s expectations, which is a tricky one — he cited the quote “expectations are premeditated resentments”.

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In order to have employees who are fully engaged, he uses a number of approaches:

  • “Hire slow, fire fast,” a lesson he learned from the managing director of the Ciccio Restaurant Group, a local commercial and critical success story.
  • Not hiring seasonal workers: He wants people who are more committed. He prefers people who are “college-educated and looking to gain experiences”. I’m looking for coffee geeks with a strong sense of purpose.”
  • Trying to figure out who employee candidates are and what they want to be. He asks them “What do you want to be doing in five years” and requires cover letters in employee applications, which is typical for white collar office jobs, but unusual in the world of baristas.
  • Asking prospective employees “On a scale of 1 to 10, how weird are you?”. The answer, he says, is quite helpful in making hiring decisions.

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He takes a strong interest in the well-being of his employees, as his concern is to “make companies that aren’t just stepping stones, but chapters in someone’s life.” To that end, he tries to make the work experience at Blind Tiger a great one, expose his crew to different activities and positive experiences, bring healthy food to team meetings, and encourage them to do those little things that make life better (“I do tell them to get 8 hours of sleep”).

As for his involvement in the running of Blind Tiger, Roberto says that he’s not involved in the day-to-day operations, but provides direction. He’s got a manager and assistant manager to take on those tasks, but he says “I wash dishes”.

The meetup ended with a round-the-room session where everyone introduced themselves, telling us what they did for work and what they’d like to see at future Company Culture meetups, followed by more informal socializing.

Keep an eye on the Tampa Company Culture Meetup page — I’ve got a hunch that this will be an active and interesting group. My thanks to Saxon, Taylor, and Roberto for making it happen!

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Woke up this morning and…

by Joey deVilla on June 24, 2016

you maniacs

You maniacs! You blew it up!
Click the photo to see it at full size.

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Valyrian rubber: Jon Snow's

Click the picture to see the source.

The prop used for Jon Snow’s Valyrian steel sword when sheathed works just fine in non-action scenes. However, when he hurriedly mounted his horse in the most recent episode, The Battle of the Bastards, it certainly didn’t behave like an object forged from an incredibly strong metal whose recipe is lost to history.

Thanks to David Janes for the find!

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Last year, the New York Times seemed to be in love with the “Dad Bod”, the “softly round”, slight out-of-shape physique that men get when they settle down and have kids:

nyt of dad bod

They’re not as generous with “Mom Hair”, which is also a byproduct of settling down and bearing kids:

nyt on mom hair

I think New York magazine hit the nail on the head with this observation in an article titled New Moms Personally Offend New York Times by Getting Unflattering Haircuts:

They may not have any mandated parental leave, and they’re probably not sleeping more than a few hours a night, but that shouldn’t get in the way of them thinking about their perfect post-partum hairstyle.

What shall we call what the New York Times did? Momsplaining? Momshaming? Or just plain stupid, bad, and lazy writing?

I’ll close with this tweet by Heather Havrilesky:

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blind tiger cafe 3

I’m going to attend what should be an interesting meetup this Thursday in Tampa: the first Tampa Company Culture Meetup. It’ll happen on Thursday, June 23rd at 7:00 p.m. at the Blind Tiger Café in Ybor City.

culture its what were made of

The simplest definition of “company culture” is the set of values and practices that a company’s employees share. Wikipedia’s page on organizational culture says “culture includes the organization’s vision, values, norms, systems, symbols, language, assumptions, beliefs, and habits.”

Some examples of company culture:

  • A small, scrappy company operating out of someone’s living room is likely to have a culture with values like “done is better than perfect” and an “anything that gets the job done” approach to operating.
  • A hospital’s culture will probably feature values like “err on the side of caution” and practices that emphasize following procedure and maintaining as sterile an environment as possible.
  • Zappos.com’s About Zappos Culture page spells out their core values, and one of their practices is giving customers the best experience possible.
  • Even a solo sole proprietorship has a culture — it’s that single person’s vision, values, assumptions, beliefs, and habits.
  • The unintentional but de facto culture at a company that’s in crisis can be one where the primary value is “every man for himself”, with its practices being doing the bare minimum because no one’s really invested in the place anymore and blind adherence to procedure solely to avoid becoming a scapegoat.

blind tiger cafe

Roberto Torres, CEO of Blind Tiger Cafe and Vlack and Denim.

According to its Meetup page, this goal of this group is to “bring together the best minds in Culture from all around the Tampa Bay area. We want to share best practices, hear from some pros, and discuss the always changing landscape of company culture.”

The first meeting will feature Roberto Torres, CEO of Blind Tiger Cafe and Black and Denim. He’ll talk about how understanding company culture helped his business succeed.

Here’s how Tampa Bay Business Journal described Torres shortly after he opened the Bling Tiger in late 2014:

Torres has the success story and drive to be Mr. Ybor. The head ofBlack and Denim Apparel Company now sells his merchandise in his three-in-one retail, cafe and coworking space. The space’s opening is perhaps the first flashy step in inviting young urban professionals to spend the day in Ybor City.

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Tampa Bay Online has this to say about the space:

Perhaps the best way to understand the new Blind Tiger Cafe space in Ybor City is to envision it as a creative-type entrepreneur’s dream of where to work for the day, or the month.

The Blind Tiger gets its name from another term for “speakeasy”, an establishment that sells alcohol illegally, often under the guise of another business. The Blind Tiger Café does something similar: they’re a clothing boutique under the guise of a café, with a little coworking space thrown in for good measure.

black and denim

If you’d like to know a little more about Torres and the Blind Tiger and get a feel for the sort of company culture they have, this video might shed some light:

I’ll be there Thursday evening, along with Anitra. Hope to see you there!

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