A small thing every day

I believe if you want to get good at something, you need to do it every day. Even if it’s a small thing. Small steps are still better than nothing.

This is exactly what I’m trying to do with these daily posts. Like the one you’re reading right now. I’m trying to be better at writing, expressing myself, but also sharing my knowledge with everyone. I figured out it’s better to write things down.

Maybe it’s a little bit selfish… But thank you for following my daily posts. I hope you find them useful to you.

If you have something you really want. Try doing it every day. Small baby steps. Good luck!

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Just ask

I make sure to set some time to help others. Either those asking me via emails/DMs or by writing things on my blogs.

But sometimes, I want to keep time wasted between back and forth to a minimum. If you want to ask someone, just ask. Say it in the first message. Be quick, direct to the point, and avoid the extra talk.

There is no need to say: Can I ask you something? Hey, how are you? What you are doing is good, can you help me with something? You think you are being friendly, but you are not. A lot of people out there are ready to help. So help them help you by getting directly to the point.

Just ask. Just say it. When you have the chance to ask, do it. Don’t ask for permission.

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Segmenting audience in Mailchimp

This is the third lesson I’m sharing with you on my journey to learn online marketing. After groups and tags, now it’s time to learn about segments.

Segmentation is the process of having buckets of your audience that checks a list of criteria. Usually, the intersection of contacts part of a group, have a tag, or others. This is better explained with an example.

Remote.ma has an article called “The best coffee shops for working in Casablanca“. One problem I had with this article is whenever I update it, there is no way to notify people about the new coffee shops. Other than posting on social media of course. If I want to send an email on each update, I need to know who is interested in hearing such information. People interested in this article are:

  • Already working remotely (so they are used to the idea of working from coffee shops)
  • Are from Casablanca

So this is my segment for this article and I can create it in Mailchimp. In fact, when a user subscribes to your mailing list, their location is also saved.

You can create segments using location, but there are other things you can use too: Groups, subscription date, activity, contact rating… You can let your creativity shine.

This will be the last article describing the theory of online marketing. The following ones are case studies and real examples applied to remote.ma. Make sure to subscribe to get those in your email:

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Automattic’s creed

When I joined Automattic, this creed was on my contract. After reading it, I knew this will be a good experience. And it is.

Today I’m sharing it with you:

  • I will never stop learning.
  • I won’t just work on things that are assigned to me.
  • I know there’s no such thing as a status quo.
  • I will build our business sustainably through passionate and loyal customers.
  • I will never pass up an opportunity to help out a colleague, and I’ll remember the days before I knew everything.
  • I am more motivated by impact than money, and I know that Open Source is one of the most powerful ideas of our generation.
  • I will communicate as much as possible, because it’s the oxygen of a distributed company.
  • I am in a marathon, not a sprint, and no matter how far away the goal is, the only way to get there is by putting one foot in front of another every day.
  • Given time, there is no problem that’s insurmountable.

You can see more information here.

I can’t add anything to this. It perfectly describes the company and the people working there.

I hope we can see more creeds like this instead of the non-sense some companies are sharing.

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The boring stuff

Who loves the boring stuff? No one!

I have a story to share with you today. It’s about a subject I considered “boring”. But it turns out it’s one of the best things I learned in my life. Just after coding.

Back in July 2018, I joined Automattic. A distributed company with folks working from more than 60 different countries. It was a new adventure for me and I was excited about the challenge.

But the work started a month earlier. I was doing what I called back then the boring parts. Getting the legal paperwork done.

Given my employer isn’t based in Morocco, I needed to create a legal entity here. That includes starting a company, getting an accountant, and learning company management. This was time-consuming for sure. But I was happy I got everything figured out.

And then I started learning accounting. I considered it as the most boring subject in engineering school. But this time, I had an accountant who helped me with some real and eye-opening cases. And wow, those real cases were interesting!

To this day, nearly 2 years after starting the company, I’m still learning accounting. And I’m still amazed whenever I learn something new. It’s like learning about this very secret trick no one is talking about. You feel like you’re part of a secret group.

Accounting made me realize how businesses work. How the finance works. And how companies use it to their advantage. For the first time ever, I understand my paychecks. I know how to legally optimize things. And I know what I’m paying and why.

I gave a boring subject its time. I didn’t rush things. And it turns out it’s not that boring after all.

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The story behind killing Creative Africa

I got this comment yesterday from Blessing:

I just came across one of your previous platforms Creative Africa while surfing the internet, which led me here. Pls I would like to know what the platform was about and why doesn’t exist anymore, if you wouldn’t mind sharing.

Thank you Blessing. I don’t mind sharing, and your comment in fact made me realize I didn’t write down why I killed the project. So here is my recap.

For context, Creative Africa was a project I launched back in 2017/2018. I usually start projects in response to some events. And Creative Africa was no different. Everything started when I was trying to find some freelance work on Upwork.

Whenever I said I’m from Morocco, there was this expectation that I should charge less. Or even work for free. And I hated it.

I hated the idea that I’m getting paid less because I’m living in Morocco. Or an African country in general. I hated it more because the act of asking to charge less was considered “normal”. It was disgusting! For me, compensation should be based on my output. And nothing else. If I’m delivering value, then I should get paid.

Full of rage, as this happened more than once, I started thinking of a way to show the world what we can do. Show that we are creative. We have talent. And we can compete in the international. Africa is also a continent of talent.

And this is how the idea of Creative Africa started. It’s a showcase of the best African creatives around. For those who think we don’t have them. And given I was posting for remote jobs at the time. It was the perfect project to work on my coding skills and building my portfolio. So I started working on it around Oct 2017.

I published the project in February 2018 in Product Hunt. It picked up momentum and a lot of news outlets started featuring the project: LesInfos.ma, Disrupt-Africa, TechMoran. It felt good!

But the thing I’m proud of is this comment in Product Hunt:

Guys definitely check this one out. They got some SERIOUS talent on here goddamn 😲

I looked into the archives and found some of the work I featured on the platform. So I decided to include it here for reference:

I didn’t store credits with the images themselves. So couldn’t say who are the creatives here 😦

It was all about creativity. Product design, photography, typography, illustration…

And now after the context. Let me talk to you about why I stopped working on it.

Given the project received some press coverage and a lot of word of mouth marketing. I was receiving a lot of requests from creatives to get featured on the platform. But from the start, I considered the platform as a showcase of the best. So I was strict about the artworks that should make it to the homepage. In fact, I accepted about 3% of the requests I got.

That helped me keep a high standard, but also drain a lot of personal time. I was going into submissions and choosing what I can feature. Writing a rejection email if I can not feature the work. And the majority of the time, looking around at Dribbble and Behance to find some African creatives.

I was doing all this manually. And I reached a point where it was too much for me to handle. The project was taking a lot of my personal time, and it wasn’t sustainable to continue it.

The second problem I had is a technical problem. I build the project with technologies I barely understood at the time. And I built it in a way that was hard for me to automate things, or even develop new functionalities without breaking stuff.

I decided at that time it was too much to handle. And that I should stop working on it. The other solution was to keep it running but reduce the posting frequency. I’m not sure why I didn’t go that way… And now that we are talking about it. I have some plans to bring it back

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How to know what’s better for you: A manager role or a senior role?

This is a question a lot of people have: Should I be in a senior role? Or a manager role?. And I had that question too and started looking for answers.

I find my answers in books, and this time is no different. I picked up The Making of a Manager book after seeing good reviews on Twitter.

I’m still in the first chapters of the book, but I did get my answer. And that’s what I’m trying to share with you today.

First, I wanted to get something out of the way, so we both start on the same page. “Becoming a manager” is often seen as a promotion. In many organizations, your ability to grow in your career will hit a ceiling unless you start managing people. There are jobs where, beyond a certain skill level, the only path for growth is learning to manage. For example, retail sales or customer support.

That said, many organizations have paths for advancement that don’t require managing others. Particularly those that seek to attract skilled or creative talent. You can practice to become a distinguished expert in your field.

You can either grow as a manager or as an “individual contributor”. Both tracks offer equal opportunities for impact, growth, and compensation. This means becoming a manager is not a promotion, it’s a transition to another different track.

Now, back to our question. How to know if you want to be in a senior role or move to management? For that, you need to answer a simple question:

Do I find it more motivating to achieve a particular outcome or play a specific role?

What does this mean?

When you’re a manager, you’re judged on your team outcomes. So your job is to do whatever most helps them succeed. If your team is lacking key skills, you need to spend time training or hiring. If someone is creating problems, then you need to get him to stop. A lot of this work is unglamorous. But because it’s important, it must be done. And if nobody else does it, then it falls on you.

If you’re motivated to achieve a particular outcome. Shipping that product, evolving the processes, training… Then you will probably enjoy (or at least not mind) the variation that comes with the job.

If instead, there is a specific activity that you love too much to give up. Whether it’s teaching students, writing code, or designing products. Then you may find your personal goals at odds with what the team needs most.

If you’re motivated to achieve a particular goal regardless of the work. Then you’ll be a good manager.

If you’re interested in a specific activity, then moving to a senior role is better.

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Too much information

Take any subject you can think of. Make a simple search. And you’ll get thousands of results.

There is too much information around!

A lot of information is good. But too much information leads to fatigue. And instead of deciding what you’ll be reading, doing, etc. You’re overwhelmed. And you end up giving up.

I believe the next big thing will be content curation. Call it the TLDR; of the Internet.

In the future, we’ll rely more on curators. They are people we trust. People who will process information and give us the only bits we need to know. They will serve as our shield against information fatigue. And they will spend the majority of their time reading, researching, and documenting things.

When it comes to compensation, they will be using the power of the Internet: Selling monthly subscriptions to their audience.

This model works best and it’s the same model driving the software industry. The cost to reproduce what you’re selling is null or minimal. You’re producing one thing and selling it over and over again. Which gives you the best margins possible.

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Learning about Tags in online marketing

I’m on a quest to learn online marketing, and I’m sharing with you my progress. So make sure to subscribe to get all new content in your inbox.

Last time, I shared with you Mailchimp’s Groups feature. You can learn more about it here, but the TLDR; is it’s a way of grouping your audience in buckets (or groups).

Today, I want to introduce you to another feature in Mailchimp. It’s called Tags. If groups are for a group of your audience. Tags are for individuals.

If you already used a note-taking app or a blogging platform before, you may be familiar with the idea of tags. They are some extra information you add to your notes/posts and you can use it after to search for them.

I’ll go with an example:

In my last post about groups, I shared with you the 3 groups I’m planning to add for remote.ma‘s online marketing. They are:

  • Aspiring to work remotely
  • Just started working remotely
  • Already working remotely

Now, if I take the first group “Aspiring to work remotely“. I know they are people wanting to start remote work, so they want content that will help them do so. But, Ahmed who is a software engineer is different from Mike who is a designer. Both are aspiring to start remote work. But they have different needs. One is a designer. The other is a software engineer. And the same goes for marketing, support, sales, and all other jobs.

So the way you can solve this is by using Tags. I can add a “designers” tag to Mike. And a “programmer” tag to Ahmed. In certain cases, you can achieve the same thing with groups. But I’ll tell you the difference.

Other than it’s cumbersome and can be repetitive sometimes (like in my case). The big difference is a contact can have multiple tags. But can only be part of one group. So if a contact is interested in design and software engineering. They can have both tags. But they can’t be part of two groups. Like “aspiring to work remotely” and “already working remotely”.

To add tags to your contacts, you can use the dashboard or you can add them automatically. Say a landing page with an ebook for designers. You can say that anyone who downloaded this ebook will have the “designers” tag.

Now, next time I want to send an email, I can select to only send it to contacts with a specific tag. But there is a catch there. If you select a tag. This will send the email to all contacts with the tag. In all categories!

But how can I select a tag inside a group? Say designers part of the aspiring to work remotely group? This is what’s called a Segment. Segments are a way to combine groups, tags, and other parameters. And they are the next thing we’ll be talking about! I don’t want to spoil my next post, so make sure to subscribe if you want to know more 🙂

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Paperback books

I’m still an old fashioned boy and I can’t hop on the kindle/digital books train, yet. I love paperback books. I love turning the pages, highlighting things, and all that stuff.

Speaking of highlighting, up until a few weeks ago, I was using flags index tabs. I even talked about them in my prior post about my way of reading books. But I’m using them rarely now.

I asked myself, why am I using them? And the answer was obvious in my head: “If I borrow the book to someone, I don’t want to bias his ideas. So I keep it clean”. Yeah, a noble cause.

And here, when was the last time I borrowed a book to someone? Uh well, it was at least 4 years ago! I guess I stopped borrowing.

Back in 2016, I remember I had two books that I liked. Sadly,
I only remember the name of one, The 4 Hour Work-week. I liked these books to the point where I was talking about them for hours every day. During lunch, dinner, and inside the class (sorry!).

One day I said to my friends: “I’ll stop talking about them, why don’t you read them yourselves?”. I was giving them my best-of, but I was sure they will find other interesting things in the book. They agreed, and I borrowed them my books.

Then, I never saw these books again. It was our final year, we got on different paths, and I completely forgot about them.

It was due to this that I decided I shouldn’t borrow my books. Ever. But somehow, I kept the idea of “I should keep them clean in case someone borrowed them from me”.

After remembering this, I’m approaching notes differently. I bought a pencil and started taking notes on books. They don’t look clean anymore. But they look personal. They are MY books.

Oh, I bought another copy of The 4 Hour Work-week 🙂