The burden of debt

The temptation of debt at a young age is a little too inviting for many people, myself included. Looking back, I wish i hadn’t bothered taking on any of that debt.

It all started when I went to university. During Freshers’ Week, several events are put on to acclimatise you to life at your university and student life in general and some of the many vendors at the events included banks and credit card companies trying to sell you on student bank accounts and student credit cards.

It’s a little too tempting. A credit card / loan designed just for me and my needs as a student? It can’t hurt to sign up. I’ll just pay off the balance every month.

It really is a slippery slope. When I went to university my fees were paid for because my family had a low income so I only needed money to live. Given that I was living at home and had a job, I didn’t really need the student loan that was available to me, but again, everyone else was doing it and who would turn down a loan that doesn’t accrue interest until you leave university, has an interest rate equivalent to the inflation rate (a few percent) and only gets paid back once you’re earning a moderate wage? Continue reading “The burden of debt”

Take your email privacy back

Your email archive tells a lot about you, which is why Andy Chen’s team created a new, better system from the ground up: ProtonMail

Don’t know much about Internet privacy? Think your email is private and secure?

Andy Chen’s brief TED talk explains how email works, why it’s not as secure as you think and discusses his team’s alternative: ProtonMail. Continue reading “Take your email privacy back”

Using a VPN to protect your online activity

The Internet of today is much different than the one of 20 years ago and it’s well worth considering using a VPN to protect yourself from the prying eyes of criminals, governments and corporations.

There was a time when the Internet was used by just academics, governments and a few major corporations as a way of sharing information. The data was very intentionally public and was intended for consumption by all.

Now of course the picture is much different. Few may have foreseen just how quickly the Internet would be adopted in our homes and businesses and just what we’d be doing with it. The ways in which we use the Internet has changed drastically. We now use it for all manner of transactions, like banking, shopping and entertainment. Many of these activities are no longer things that we would like to be public.

Adding security to the Internet has long been an option but only recently is it becoming more of a standard. Web addresses used to run over HTTP, which means that information is transmitted unsecured, allowing anyone to intercept it between its source and its destination. More and more, site owners are switching to HTTPS, which encrypts the data between the users offering another level of security.

HTTPS is somewhat effective, but still won’t do much good to those who are really intent on seeing what you’re doing online, especially those with unlimited resources behind them, like governments and large corporations. Continue reading “Using a VPN to protect your online activity”

Reflecting back on the last 30 years (I’m 30)

Today I turn 30, so it’s a great time to reflect on what I’ve done, how far I’ve come and what I want to do moving forward

30 years ago today, aside from the first ever episode of the most popular British soap Eastenders airing, I was born.

I absolutely couldn’t care less that I’m 30. I haven’t been dreading this day, nor do I attribute any sort of aging to it, any more so than any other day. However, a “n0” birthday is a milestone that only comes along once a decade so it seems like a perfect time for some reflection.

The last 10 years

Since February 2010 (the last 5 years), quite a number of things have changed in my life. I became a professional engineer, I became a father, I have another child on the way, I started my own business which is now thriving and I moved house 3 times.

In the last 10 years, even more has changed. In February 2005, I was in my second year at university, was single, living with my Mum in the UK and I was working for the NHS. Over the next 5 years, I would meet and fall in love with Marti, graduate from university, become a Christian, move to the States to be with her, get married 60 days later, battle 8 months of being unable to work before getting my green card, a job, my driver’s license, a car and our first apartment in the space of about 4 weeks.

Reflection on who I am

Me in December 2005 - the first time I ever visited Marti
Me in a decidedly emo pose in December 2005 – the first time I ever visited Marti

As I think about the man I am today, where I’ve come from and the boy I used to be, I’ve noticed quite a few specific observations about how I’ve changed in particular and more general observations about how we as humans mature (or don’t).

The first thing is that nothing is given. Not only is nothing guaranteed but you’ll change in ways and do things that you would have never believed, conceived or thought possible. Continue reading “Reflecting back on the last 30 years (I’m 30)”

Ricardo Semler’s take on corporate democracy

Ricardo Semler’s style of management revolutionised his company, an approach that he is translating into daily life and even education

Ricardo Semler, the former CEO of a large Brazilian company took a dramatic new approach to employment, education and living that rewards wisdom and improves work-life balance.

For example, at his company, employees do not report their vacation days and if they meet their quotas, they’re encouraged to go to the beach instead of working the rest of the week.

Dollar Shave Club epitomises the power of marketing

Dollar Shave Club made a name for themselves with their now infamous online ads, proving that marketing is probably more powerful than we’d like to admit.

Ever since I first saw Dollar Shave Club’s first ad, I was in love. Their marketing is genius. I was so in love with their ad that they really got my attention and made me wonder what their service was about, building on the introduction that they gave in the video.

Had I just seen the name “Dollar Shave Club” online, I almost certainly would have ignored it and passed on it, but DSC’s branding genius used the power of humour and social media to deliver their message.

The video above has been viewed over 18 million times and their follow-up, about their “One Wipe Charlies” has been seen nearly 3 million times and is equally representative of how powerful their brand is. Continue reading “Dollar Shave Club epitomises the power of marketing”

The cost of doing business – my price is my price

It annoys me to no end when I agree to pay a price only to have taxes, fees and charges added on at the end, leaving me frustrated, not trusting the company and not wanting to do business with them.

I’m a business owner. As such, I incur costs from providing services to my clients, from banking fees for every transaction I process, to hosting fees for backing up my client’s sites before and during development.

An extremely important way that I build trust with my clients is that when I tell them a price, that’s the price they should pay. Sometimes less, but never more.

We’ve all experienced something similar to this situation: you sign up for a $40/month cell phone contract, but by the time they’ve added on line rental, roaming, credit card fees, voicemail, fees and taxes, your original “deal” isn’t quite the bargain that it sounded like. Continue reading “The cost of doing business – my price is my price”

Magical pony

Last week I got a rather obscure but very endearing compliment from one of my best clients. She’s the kind of client that you dream of working with, both in how she values what you do, and how her personality and working style match mine so well that has caused us to become friends through our working relationship.

You are, as I have stated multiple times in the past, a magical pony.

This compliment is one of several that I’ve had from her and I love it so much that I might start referring to myself as “the magical pony”.

The “awesome client” discount

For my best and easiest clients, I sometimes randomly give an “awesome client” discount, just because they’re so nice to work with and I don’t have to hold their hands or do much rework.

It’s hard to get a good feel for who your clients are before you take them on, so sometimes you end up with clients that require a bit more hand-holding and a few more revisions than is ideal.

As such, your fees need to reflect the possibility that each project might take longer than expected because of this unknown. So when you have an awesome client and you don’t have to spend that extra time on the project (and in fact, can finish even quicker than normal), it’s nice to be able to give that money back in the form of an “awesome client discount”. Continue reading “The “awesome client” discount”