Mariel Devesa Joins Tech Startup Phyn

Last month, I had the opportunity to sit down with Mariel Devesa, who had just joined tech startup Phyn as Global Head of Business Development. In the first half of our interview, we covered the basics:

Where was she born? Argentina (she moved to the United States at age one).
Where did she go to school? She has a bachelor’s degree from UCLA.
What positions did she hold before starting work at Phyn? Mariel was a competitive athlete as a windsurfer, worked at companies like Deloitte & Touche, Redbull, and Herbalife, and was working at Farmers Insurance as Head of Innovation before moving to Phyn this summer.

It was this last question that really caught my attention. How does one go from working as a sponsored athlete to being Global Head of Business Development at a Los Angeles County tech startup, and what skills and lessons did she bring with her along the way?

An Introduction to Phyn

Mariel explained that one of the things that attracted her to Phyn was how advanced their technology is. Phyn is a Torrance startup focusing on smart water management technology.

The Phyn Plus, Phyn’s first product, aims to enable to customers to “speak the language of water” by providing technology that monitors the water use in their homes or commercial buildings. To learn the basics of Phyn’s background, read our article on their technology here.

Working at a Startup

Mariel has an entrepreneurial background, her family having roots in real estate. To Mariel, working at a startup provides a higher level of agility in her work. She explained, “If you need something done, you just get it done.”

Phyn still has fewer than 50 employees, allowing her to work very closely with the product team. As Mariel put it, “Product is my next door neighbor, finance is my other next door neighbor, and [our desks are] six inches apart.”

The Makings of a Self-Starter

During her late teen years, Mariel’s involvement in competitive windsurfing resulted in a turning point for her confidence. She needed a way to finance her sports career, compelling her to network with companies (local and global) in order to source sponsorships. These endeavors were ultimately successful, as she put together multi-year sponsorships with companies like Redbull.

This wasn’t an easy feat, though. Mariel recounted her experience with shyness and rejection, “It was like a game for me. I’d walk into a room and say: I’m going to get this person to say yes. Even though 50 people are going to say no, that 51st person is going to say yes.” Books acted as a source of motivation for the young businesswoman, specifically, Harvey Mackay’s works, Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive and Beware the Naked Man Who Offers You His Shirt.

Mariel’s curiosity and drive are key to her work, as she has switched industries and business departments multiple times throughout her career. Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg, refers to modern careers as “not a ladder,” but “a jungle gym.” Sandberg describes this as people who “look for opportunities, look for growth, look for impact, look for mission. Move sideways, move down, move on, move off. Build [their] skills, not [their] resume. Evaluate what [they] can do, not the title they’re going to give you. Do real work.” Devesa is a model example of this metaphor.

Actions at Phyn

It has now been just over a month since Mariel started work at Phyn, and you can be sure that the LA Startups team will be keeping up with the actions she is taking to maximize Phyn’s international growth through consumer education and global partnerships.

For more information on Mariel Devesa, you can visit her page on LinkedIn here.

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Managing Editor
Saphira has a combined social following of 150,000+ followers; experience in digital marketing, brand development, and business consulting. She is all about learning: reading 50 books a year, independently learning languages and computer programming. Completing her degree at Loyola Marymount University’s Hilton School of Business.
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Managing Editor
Saphira has a combined social following of 150,000+ followers; experience in digital marketing, brand development, and business consulting. She is all about learning: reading 50 books a year, independently learning languages and computer programming. Completing her degree at Loyola Marymount University’s Hilton School of Business.
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PledgeLA to Boost Diversity and Inclusion in The Los Angeles Tech Community

PledgeLA to Boost Diversity and Inclusion in The Los Angeles Tech Community

As the tech sector in LA grows due to the saturation of the tech industry in the San Francisco area, the same problems in Silicon Valley are now coming up. There’s a growing tension between the upstarts of the tech industry and the regular folks in the community surrounding this IT boom.

According to critics, what will follow in LA will be what happened in San Francisco if there’s nothing done about it. Regular people and longtime residents will feel alienated and looked down upon. They will feel like they’re being forced out by the higher rents and costs of homes as well as the prices of regular consumer goods.

That’s why more than 80 entrepreneurs and tech investors are joining Mayor Eric Garcetti and the non-profit Annenberg Foundation to launch PledgeLA. This is the LA tech community initiative that seeks to avoid what happened in San Francisco and to the people there who felt disenfranchised by the growing tech boom.

PledgeLA Features

Features of the initiative include the following:

  • More opportunities will be provided for everyone, regardless of race, background, or gender. So even non-white women who grew up poor should have the same opportunities as the white guys who grew up rich.
  • Those who signed to the PledgeLA agreement will track civic participation and diversity data each year. That data will be made public so that people will know if a tech company is made up of exclusively white males from the Ivy Leagues and other top schools.
  • Startups and funds will report on the composition of their workforce noting various factors. This won’t be just noting age, gender, and race. It will also note socioeconomic origin, educational attainment, and even sexual orientation to see if there’s bias against hiring members of the LGBT community. Other factors will include the status in regards to disabilities, immigration, and military service veteran. Even the tenure at a firm will be noted.
  • The signatories also will come up with a proper code of conduct centered on diversity and inclusion, and diversity will be practiced in corporate hiring.

Good Business Sense

While many who signed PledgeLA did so out of a sense of moral and ethical rightness, it also makes good business sense to emphasize diversity on corporate hiring practices. A Diverse workgroup brings different points of views when it comes to making decisions. It helps with networking for sources of talent, and the diverse work group can help build a diverse consumer base as well.

LA has now become one of the top 5 US destinations for technology investment and it’s now one of the top tech hubs in the country. The top 100 tech companies in LA and Orange County has reported a 24% increase in employment within the last year.

There are a still a few notable holdouts to PledgeLA, however. Tesla and SpaceX have not yet signed on, and nor has Snap. But LA is an inherently diverse area, and such a diversity must be maintained in the tech workplace as well.

Author Details
Santa Monica, Culver City, Venice, Hollywood, and beyond
LAStartups.com is a digital lifestyle publication that covers the culture of startups and technology companies in Los Angeles. It is the go-to site for people who want to keep up with what matters in Los Angeles’ tech and startups from those who know the city best.
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Santa Monica, Culver City, Venice, Hollywood, and beyond
LAStartups.com is a digital lifestyle publication that covers the culture of startups and technology companies in Los Angeles. It is the go-to site for people who want to keep up with what matters in Los Angeles’ tech and startups from those who know the city best.

Appz, a Smart Personal Assistant for Your Instagram

What is Appz and why should you use it?

If you have an Instagram account you know that managing and handling it can be quite the nuisance. You need to spend a lot of time writing comments, replying and talking with customers. That’s why you need every helping hand you can get. And it’s a good idea to try Appz if possible.

This is a really nice Instagram assistance that allows you to do the right amount of maintenance while also automating the processes that eat up so much of your time. What you will like the most about Appz is that it’s a personalized, brand-building assistant.

Once you install Appz, you can automate just about any Instagram process you can think of. It works great for auto-commenting, auto-following, and auto-liking as well. It works great if you want to acquire new followers too because it will like content created by people that have similar interests to you.

How can you use Appz?

The way Appz works is simple, you just need to add the desired hashtag and then it will do the rest for you. Appz will find people that share and access similar content and then you can engage with those persons in no time.

Not only that, but you can also monitor what Appz does via a dashboard. You can see things like engagement stats, activity statistics and so on. Every detail matters and with Appz you really get to have all the info you need in a comprehensive package. The interface is very easy to use and you can easily get a good idea of what people you need to reach, how to approach them and so on.

Appz does a very good job at optimizing your content since it works non-stop to find similar hashtags to the ones you are using and it also creates the best way for you to reach more people on Instagram. It’s nothing forced, everything is natural and it works exactly the way you want.

Why should you use Appz?

You should get the Appz Instagram Assistant: Lifetime Subscription because it makes it easier for you to find followers and generate more leads for your business. You also get to figure out what triggers the engagement, where you can find new followers and how you can promote your business even more. Plus, you can even drive up your likes, increase your reach and affiliate with influencers.

If you want to improve your Instagram presence and acquire more leads or customers, Appz is here to assist. It delivers great value and efficiency, and you will be amazed at how many followers you can get this way. Plus, Appz can be fully automated and it works non-stop for you in the background. Avail this great opportunity and check it out today!

Also, check out these 15 Hacks to Get More Instagram Followers

Author Details
Editor-In-Chief
A native Angeleno. John studied engineering at UCLA; founded Schmoozd, an offline social tech networking event in LA with 30,000 subs; ran a startup accelerator (StartEngine). Worked for several major brands like Toyota, DIRECTV, Hitachi, and Raytheon. A mentor at LMU Entrepreneur School. And advises a dozen local LA startups building amazing tech in various industries; also invested in some.

john@lastartups.com
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Editor-In-Chief
A native Angeleno. John studied engineering at UCLA; founded Schmoozd, an offline social tech networking event in LA with 30,000 subs; ran a startup accelerator (StartEngine). Worked for several major brands like Toyota, DIRECTV, Hitachi, and Raytheon. A mentor at LMU Entrepreneur School. And advises a dozen local LA startups building amazing tech in various industries; also invested in some.

john@lastartups.com

Can You Measure Software Developer Productivity?

Can You Measure Software Developer Productivity?

The cost of software development kills innovation by limiting resources available to solve problems

THE PRODUCTIVITY DILEMMA

Let’s face it – software development is expensive.  Really expensive.  It’s not hard to understand why – software development is a complicated and still-maturing industry, and as the sector grows, it actually gets more complicated, not less, because of the acceleration of changes in technologies, programming languages, and toolsets.

As a technology consultant, one who is paid to help build expensive, complex systems, I should be happier than a fanboy on a Fortnite bender about this trend, right?  Wrong – it frustrates me a great deal.  My job is to solve problems and build things that people need, and that gets harder when funding becomes a challenge for our clients.

So here’s the question I’ve been grappling with – how can we make software development more productive to reduce costs?

There are lots of things our industry has done over the preceding decades to tackle this problem:

  • Developed working methodologies to build repeatable practices – Waterfall, Unified Process, Agile, XP, etc.
  • Created design patterns to solve common problems – MVC, SOLID, GoF, and many others
  • Leveraged lower cost resources through offshoring

None of these have been a panacea.  Look at any enterprise and you’ll find competing for SDLC methodologies, loose adherence to design practices, and the common efficiency roadblocks due to offshoring.  While these efforts have been helpful in managing cost, it is very difficult to measure the effect they have really had.

MEASURING PRODUCTIVITY

What to do, then?  More than anything, the focus of productivity has to start with the most human element of all – the individual developer herself.  The focus has to be on how to increase the speed that a developer can turn a designed solution into working code with as few errors as possible.

Anyone who has been in the software industry knows there are broad ranges in developers’ productivity.   It depends on the individual’s ability to understand programming theory, their educational background, years of experience, a personal situation at the time, how much Fortnite they play, etc.

Why is this important?  Quite simply, time is money.  The longer it takes a developer to code a solution, the more it costs.  In today’s environment of nearly full employment, demand for software developers has never been higher, which brings a lot of varied talent into the picture to meet the demand.  Anyone who has hired a developer knows the productivity gap I’m talking about – hiring is an expensive proposition and no matter how much interviewing you do, and you’re never sure what sort of productivity you’ll get until that person gets to work.

Why is measuring productivity so hard?  Because a good measurement involves an apples-to-apples comparison between developers, yet they will almost never complete the same task to produce the same set of code.  Since every development task is different, we cannot establish a baseline for how long it SHOULD take to perform a task versus how long it WILL take a specific developer.  Throw in each person’s differing levels of experience, education, and general abilities with the discipline, and…you get the picture.

Does that mean we’re stuck with technical interviews, coding tests, and answered prayers to create a team of highly productive software engineers?  Not quite.  Agile practices give us an opportunity to solve the biggest challenge in measuring developer productivity – creating a baseline to measure the variance between the estimated and actual time to perform a coding task.

HOW IT WORKS

Every ALM tool – Jira, or otherwise – allows a Scrum team to create story sub-tasks during their planning sessions.  Usually, a developer assigned to a sub-task has an opportunity to estimate the time it should take to complete that task, measured in hours.  During the sprint, developers can then track the actual hours spent so the team can evaluate the variance between estimated and actual hours.

This variance isn’t particularly helpful as a productivity metric because the individual developer may be much faster or slower than the average, and their estimations likely reflect this bias.

The solution to this problem is to have all the developers on the Scrum team estimate each subtask duration, creating a proxy baseline and a more reasonable expectation of the task’s duration.  Then, once a task is assigned to the individual developer, the variance calculations can start to have some meaning.

What meaning are we to glean from this variance? When looking at large sets of variances (hundreds or thousands of tasks over multiple projects), we can observe patterns in individual developers’ productivity.  If they consistently take longer to complete a task than the established baseline, we can look more deeply at the data to find root causes and potential remediations.  Is there a skills mismatch, allocation mismatch, or something else?  Does the developer need more pair programming or training in specific areas?

If a developer consistently performs tasks in less time than the estimations, we have hard metrics to reward that individual and encourage continued productivity.  We can also look at the data to see how we might have other developers emulate good behaviors from these high performers.

IMPLICATIONS

I know I know – I can hear the complaints now.  A small group of 2-4 developers on a Scrum team estimating a task cannot be used as a valid baseline, you say.  It’s a fair point, but any leftover estimation bias from a small sample size of developers would be offset by the volume of variance data we would collect.  As a manager, I care more about the variance trends and less about the exactness of anyone variance calculation.

But wait, you say.  All of this supposes a developer will be truthful in reporting their actual duration on a task.  People lie to themselves and others all the time (just read “Everybody Lies” by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz) – if a developer knows they’ll be measured on variance, they’ll manipulate their actuals to improve their perceived productivity.

Again, fair point, but there is a self-policing solution to this problem.  An employee is generally expected to work 8 hours a day.  If a developer consistently under-reports their actual durations on a task, it would appear they were consistently working less than they should be.

Say a developer is assigned two 4-hour tasks, and he takes 1 day to complete both but only reports 2 hours of actual duration for each task.  We would see a report that shows him only working 4 hours that day.  With enough data points, we could easily spot a trend of under-reporting and take corrective action.

CONCLUSION

Why is all of this important?  As individuals, not just employees, we should all strive to improve ourselves every day.  That’s how society is supposed to work – we do things, we make mistakes, we learn from them and we grow in the process.  But we can’t improve what we can’t measure.  The method I describe is very easy to implement, as long as your team is following the Scrum ceremonies.  With simple metrics and trend analysis, maybe we can finally solve a difficult problem and leave ourselves more time to knock a few more things of that ever-growing to-do list.

Chad Hahn
Author Details
Optimity Advisors, Inc.
Chad Hahn is a partner overseeing the digital & technology practice at Optimity Advisors. He is an entrepreneur with 20 years of experience in strategy, business development, operations, and technology, and has started and sold two successful service businesses. He has a strong background in software engineering and enterprise architecture, with deep expertise in both traditional and emerging technologies.
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Chad Hahn
Optimity Advisors, Inc.
Chad Hahn is a partner overseeing the digital & technology practice at Optimity Advisors. He is an entrepreneur with 20 years of experience in strategy, business development, operations, and technology, and has started and sold two successful service businesses. He has a strong background in software engineering and enterprise architecture, with deep expertise in both traditional and emerging technologies.