Monday, 2 June 2014

What's VBA between friends?

After a particularly disappointing episode with a potential employer last week I've decided to make it clear that for the right job I am prepared to work for $1 a day for 3 months as a sign of commitment. Let me spell it out: ONE DOLLAR PER DAY FOR THREE MONTHS.

Why am I doing this? Well mainly because of one particularly disingenuous rejection phone call when the person in question tried to tell me that I'd be bored in the role as it was mainly just "data processing". He went on to try and tell me that it was just spreadsheet work and was beneath me. When I said that coincidently I was attending a VBA course he just asked me what VBA was? And then right at the end of the call after explaining all this he dropped in  . . . "so we hired someone else and we also get to save some money." So is the reason you went with someone else really because of the the job itself or was it my price?

OK, so lets deal with this directly:

1. Money: Don't ask me what I want to be paid if you already know what you think the job is worth. Salary is not always the sole determining factor for why people take jobs. Just read any of the books on Google's inception. It's very simple; if you have a partner/spouse, four children, a mortgage, two car loans, alimony to pay and a reliance on Johnnie Walker Blue, then you've got some cost structure issues for your potential employer. If on the other hand you have none of these and like a lean business you've reduced your input costs in terms of time and capital you can function at a more advantageous rate for an employer or a client. It's called "backing yourself" . . . I have the confidence that if you get to know me you'll want me to stick around and you'll value me accordingly. I'll make the money equation my risk and your risk is that in three months you need to find someone else.

2. Don't ever tell me that I'd be bored in a position when you met me for less than 90mins. You don't really know me. Let me give you an example. People who've worked exclusively in financial institutions such as investment banks really have little idea what goes on in a hedge fund. They often equate the amount of fees you pay with "institutionalisation" . . . i.e.. "these guys must have a huge infrastructure in order to pay us like a large institutional pension fund." Here's the truth; I've worked in offices where you don't have a single support staff member and where you trade, research, write reports, manage risk, book transactions, deal with investors and maintain systems without anyone on the end of a phone line to help. You may be a Managing Director by title, but you're not really managing anyone but yourself. Honestly unlike in a bank you actually have to get under your desk and reboot your own computer and in some cases re-wire all the systems without so much as a friendly voice to guide you through the systems. You do all this and then you get to go home. And you don't just pass it on to another office, because there isn't always another office or even a contractor in somewhere like India that can be left to deal with the situation(s). If you don't deal with it you and your company can lose investors and revenue. So please don't tell me I'd be bored with mundane things. I have never left a job because I was tired of processes.

Spreadsheet built with VBA code specifically for Excel for Mac . . . it's easier to code this for windows, but fewer people can code it for Mac.
3. Skills for the job. An example: VBA is the basic code writing language behind macro operations in Microsoft Excel. The reason why you want to do be able to do that is so as to deal with the inefficiencies in your data processing in order to free up time to tackle other possible revenue streams and opportunities. It's far more efficient to produce a macro code and distribute it to others than to build a spreadsheet model that can be easily overwritten by someone not paying attention to things. This is called PRODUCTIVITY. If you're involved in banking where regulatory capital costs in your business have risen because of the Basel III guidelines you need to make product lines more efficient, scaleable and flexible because this will help your per dollar revenue cost to go down. For the dummies then, if people offer to do more for less, this is GOOD and should not be seen as some personnel nightmare, as in: "If I hire this person they might start innovating and want to be promoted or get paid. Perhaps it's better just to take someone on who'll do exactly what I say?"

Here's the VBA code for the spreadsheet shot I inserted above.  Note the use of QueryTables as Mac Excel handles web referenced data differently to the Windows version. If you want the sheet as is please send me a request by email.
4. Working hours. It always makes me nervous when people in describing a job or a mandate start talking about how even though they have a great team who like to work hard everyone gets a chance to work reasonable hours and get home in time to deal with their own life. Work life balance is getting to be a tired phrase. It's amazing when people tell you something like the above how many times you'll see them later the very same day in a shopping mall at 3pm oblivious to time constraints. These are often the people who have an issue with their own work life balance. They trot out this type of phrase to cover up their own problems. If I say I'll work an 60 - 80hr week it's because I mean it. That's why you can check my references. Don't assume that just because you want to get home to do whatever you do (watch Game of Thrones, complete remodelling your bathroom, attend yoga classes, etc.), that I also have those priorities.

Given that I've used a bit of Steve Jobs for this issue of the blog I thought I better take a look at what's going on at Apple. Cupertino's finest look set to buy Beats, the makers of those huge colourful headphones you see people wearing about town. They're likely to pay around $3bn for the business and it includes not only hardware but music streaming services and some "hip" managers as well. Now I like Tim Cook the Apple CEO, because he reminds me of some of the very best process managers I've seen in business. In fact Cook would probably be in a logistics Hall of Fame, if we had one, probably along side Henry Ford and the person who invented JIT (Just In Time). Where I don't like this acquisition is from the standpoint of Apple playing catch-up with others by buying-in rather than innovating directly. The trouble for Cook is people such as myself are always going to wonder what Steve Jobs would have done? If as the video clip above suggests, Apple is truly run like a start up, would Jobs have already been on to this or something better? We'll never know. We know what Cook will do, because he's done it so often: Cook will take the acquisition and quantify the inefficiencies and refine them and squeeze the life out of the parts, but he's going to have to rely on others to work out how to grow the business in order to justify the price tag . . .  thus the hip dudes. Logistics and process management can transform a business, but they rarely create a new business in itself.

Since I last wrote an entry for the blog the Australian Government released a new budget. It's not dissimilar to what the Conservative / Liberal Democrats did in the UK when they were elected, though it's probably a bit tougher. The trouble is that the election cycle in Australia is only 3 years and as such the government here won't have as much time to see their policies gain ground with the electorate. Add on to this that the macro situation, especially in respect to China which seems like it's going to continue to slowdown it's demand for key Australian commodities. Just watch Iron Ore which is getting back towards the $90/t level. That makes the bet by the Australian conservatives a bigger gamble politically than that undertaken by David Cameron and George Osborne. Just to add spice to things here the government has to rely on minor parties and independents in the Senate (upper house of the Australian Parliament) to get the legislation through and in doing so it's hard to believe they won't have to make some "interesting" compromises that will stoke the fires of the opposition. Investors here need to proceed cautiously. If the budget manages to get through relatively untouched I'd predict an AUD above 95 cents. If not we're going to see pressure again on that 90cent level.

Innovation is coming to the world of Italian cycling manufacturing. Since I last wrote both Pinarello and Colnago have produced new models for the top end of the market. I need to declare that I'm an owner of a Pinarello Dogma 60.1 (2012) that I purchased from the Pinarello shop in Treviso under the guidance of none other than the founder of Pinarello himself "Nanni" Pinarello. It's still a beautiful bike and I tend to ride it when I'm in the mood for a cruise.

The handling is always rock solid, though compared to my Cannondale Evo you notice the extra weight and lack of stiffness in the frame. Team Sky apparently asked for the new bike to be lighter and stiffer and I can see why. What they've come up with is interesting, because its still heavier than bikes such as my Evo, the top of the line Cervelo's and others such as Canyon's racing specials. Even Specialized who's Tarmac SL4 was somewhat of a benchmark has been forced to update is still lighter. So what do I make of the new Pinarello F8?

It's not exactly a pretty bike, it's BMC'ish rather than Colnago'ish. The front forks are spread in an interesting way. I think I need to see it in colours other than the brutal raw carbon the first press photos seem to be dominated by. I'm kind of sad that the wavy Onda fork has gone as it made the bike into something different. Having said that, one has to acknowledge that the old adage of form following function has come back to shred the Pinarello Dogma and turn it into an all together more brutish looking machine. I'll bet a fair amount of money that this new one is plenty stiff given my experiences of similar frame shapes from BMC. 

An altogether more classic looking example of Italian cycling art is the new Colnago C60. I was a big fan of the old C59's looks, but a bit like this blogger it was always a few grams heavier than the top bikes in the peloton.

I particularly lusted after the above C59 in the Europcar colours from 2012 and have ridden with a guy who owns this exact bike. As usual with Colnago the paint work is fantastic and the pop of the metallic lime green against the matt black is brilliant in the sunlight. The new C60 continues the Colnago tradition of tube and lug construction.

It looks fairly similar at first glance, but technically the tubes have a different shape and the bottom bracket uses a new a new system being called PressFit82.5. This bottom bracket will accept any BB86 compatible crank, however, instead of pressing the BB directly into carbon or a permanently bonded aluminum sleeve, Colnago uses replaceable aluminum cups threaded into a removable center sleeve on the C60. The bottom line is that there's a massive difference where the power gets transferred:

I suspect that this makes the C60 far stiffer than the old C59 and I bet more responsive. 

Well given my current state of employment I'll hold off on buying a new bike and like many of my readers resign myself to enjoying what I have.



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