Learnings from my sabbatical: the need to let go

A year in sabbatical taught me many things, about life, family and culture, and also about work. We went through different steps, just like during an innovation project. For me, remaining a beaming Liiper goes hand in hand with a beaming private and family life. This resulted in following our family dream, leaving everything else behind. For a while.

When I joined Liip in 2010, as one of the first “Romand”, I had the task to expand Liip’s activities to west (french speaking) Switzerland, with the great challenge of opening a new office and creating a new team there. New horizons, new persons, an avidity for advancing towards the unknown… the perfect challenge for the entrepreneur-type-of-me :)

After a challenge, follows another

Fast forward a few years later – mid 2015 – the Lausanne office counts 20 Liipers and runs well – mostly without my help anymore. This is surely due to our efforts to bring the company into self-management, added to the fantastic team of Lausanne Liipers that joined me in our everlasting commitment to build the best products for our clients.

Once this challenge was achieved, it felt to me (personally) like the end of a chapter. Moreover, with the arrival of Holacracy as our new governance framework, I was, as a Partner (then “Liip manager”) forced to adapt in that changing organization. I felt something very odd: for the first time since I joined Liip, my motivation diminished.

At the same time, a family dream had come up : getting out of the daily routine, leaving everything else behind to “slow down” and travel the world, just the four of us (our 2 boys, my wife and myself).

At first, realizing such a dream felt totally incompatible with the traditional work-school-life of the typical swiss family that we are… and then we started to think outside that box. And what if… after all?

The need for faith in the unknown

The preparation of our project took about a year, elaborating solutions as we saw the problems pop up, one after another. Finding renters for our apartment, selling our stuff, buying a motorhome, and also… I had to leave Liip, the best company in the world!!

We were confronted by many uncertainties during that path : What countries are we going to visit? Is it sufficiently safe to travel with small children in less developed countries, and for such a long time? Is our planned budget gonna be enough?

No chance to process all our fears at once… we simply had to LET GO. Follow our vision, and analyse and adapt along the way.

Camping car and family

Our campervan was our home during one year.

Wait… doesn’t that sound like Agile projects?

Those of you familiar to Agile project management will notice some similarities with the initial phases of a typical innovation project :

  1. Very early excitement (usually during initial UX Strategy workshops) : putting a vision on paper, thinking big without restrictions
  2. Coming back to reality : breaking that all down to actual user stories and tasks and noticing that we will never manage to realize all that we want to do with the planned budget and time our disposal

Yet those are hard truths : budget (usually) remains fixed, as well as the project calendar. So it was for our worldtour travel.

Finally, here we go! On the 1st of April 2016, we left Switzerland. A big leap of faith… towards something that we prepared carefully but can’t know in advance all details… just as in a agile project! ;-)

This blog post is the first one of a series on my experience in sabbatical leave. Stay tuned for more!

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Why did I change my mind about open data?

Knowledge against fear and suspicion – open data is beneficial

Generally disagreeing about any kind of data sharing, I realized my behavior was mostly based on fear. Fear is a major impediment to anything innovative and to any kind of change. Why did I change my mind about open data? It is about differentiating between public and private data, and about the fact that data made public are first of all edited.

New work – new ideas

In November 2015, I started working at Liip and I had a lot of new projects and inputs. The core of my work is the same, I completely changed field though. I stand now in the middle of a flow of innovative ideas and energy, which is very motivating and helps me be constantly open-minded.
One of my projects, last spring, was the coordination of Liip’s involvement at the annual opendata.ch conference. No, I cannot communicate about anything if I don’t understand it! Otherwise I would write complete bulls**t, people would notice it and Liip would lose all credibility on the subject. In other words, I had to know what I was talking about in order to be able to talk about it.

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Web developer is a dream job? One week to discover

We welcomed Baptiste, 14 years, in our Lausanne Office. One week of “trial internship” to understand what it is to be a dev. What could I teach him in such a short time? Read this post to discover what I organised for him and how it went.

Dev step by step

Baptiste was visiting us to discover the different facets of our job, in view to better know what he wants to do later. This week was a professional orientation internship. Taking this issue very seriously, I have given much thoughts on how to prepare a broad, dense and accessible program.

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Swissquote: How to become a leader in banking in 26 years?

Swissmarketing Vaud invited Jan De Schepper, Head of Marketing at Swissquote. I expected a guide to be a leader in a few simple steps. Highly interesting, this conference actually felt like one of my masterclass.
Report of the conference

Jan de Schepper

At this conference, what I wanted to know was how to become a leader. I expected De Schepper to hand me over the strategic marketing keys to success. The secret recipe for me to make Liip, my entreprise, an absolute leader in web development.
What kind of advice did I get?

Swissquote, a content brand

According to De Schepper, the foundation of a company leaves a significant mark. The founders, Marc Bürki et Paolo Buzzi owned Marvel Communication SA, a company specialized in financial information softwares. Once they figured out that they could provide the services they were talking about, Swissquote became a bank and IPO’d as such on the 29th of May 2000. The focus of Swissquote was on content creation right from the beginning.

A basic brand structure

At Swissquote, they believe that the brand defines who they are and how they act. Their brand structure is actually not original, as it involves a vision and six values.
In De Schepper’s words, a vision is like an Evening Star (Etoile du Berger in French). It is what leads your way.

To be the world’s most pioneering and intuitive online bank.

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TEDxCERN: Don’t be afraid of technology

Technology is just a tool! In one of the most prestigious place for researches, brilliant scientists shared their inspiration during a whole afternoon. Ripples of curiosity was the theme. This is my report of the conference.

Some people travel to visit the CERN, whereas I had never been there. It is not an impressive building lost in the middle of a green field in the countryside of Geneva like I pictured it. It is lost in a suburban area and the building is not high. Rather, it has long, never-ending corridors filled with doors leading to little offices. It’s very quiet, people whispers there. It looks nothing like the big open space that I am used to. However the people I listened too, have the same conviction about their projects.

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Mobile apps – Our 3 best advice for your success

Everyone wants a mobile app that people will own, love and use every day. Before you jump in, ask yourself, and your team, these 3 basic questions to avoid the most common mistakes. This is our guide to help you focus on your strategy and make sure that you invest in a mobile app effective for your business.

1 – What is your objective? – Strategize and test

Do you want a mobile app, because during a meeting, the CEO/CMO/Head of Marketing or whoever proposes ideas you have to follow said ‘we should have one’?
Or because a mobile app seems to be a symbol of innovative, modern or digital enterprises, you want one? Maybe because an app is the symbol of your enterprise taking on the digital turn, you need one?
It is time to rethink.
You should not ‘decide’ to have a mobile app. A mobile app should not be a ‘one shot’, it should be part of a marketing mix, which means, it belongs to a strategy.

Start by focusing on the needs of your business and identify the blockers in the customers’ journey. Ask yourself, what added-value would this app offer your customers. If it is a mere duplication of the content of your website, you should not start developing one.
An app needs a user centric design or is meant to fail. Make sure that the objectives of your mobile app are as clearly as possible defined. Skipping this step is taking the risk of developing something useless and/or having to modify it afterwards.

Keep in mind that the further you are in the project, the more expensive it is to modify. Investing time at the beginning of a project to strategize or, in the best scenario, even test with real users the first wireframes is not wasted time.

2 – Who and where are your customers?

Your app will be effective at its best if it answers your customers need. It is essential to know them and their behavior and where you find them. Then, you will maximise your targeting.

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Rebranding – a symbolic move to recover from an economic downturn?

Swiss marketing Vaud
Conference 2016.04.12
Revamping the Identity of an Iconic Technology Brand: Logitech

Rodrigo Castaňeda, Head of Brand Experience


© Atelier Kaïros photos

Logitech’s rebranding was qualified as the most ambitious brand transformation in its 30+ year history’ in the summary of the conference. It was intended to reflect the company’s commitment to design and its transformation into a stronger, multi-category technology brand.
I was particularly interested in listening to Rodrigo Castaňeda and on which perspective he would adopt to explain Logitech’s rebranding. Not only thanks to swissmarketing’s appealing summary but especially because I think that there is nothing challenging like crisis communication or management. In those situations we learn the most and get to understand, in retrospect, from the weight of our decisions. The way a company tells its history is revealing of its essence.

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Death of Spam 2.0?

We don’t like Spam 2.0 and we did our part lately for better declaration of paid stuff. And since last weekend, Google doesn’t like it either and is penalizing webpages, which sell text links or paid reviews. Matt Cutts apparently always warned about selling links without proper usage (like rel=”nofollow), but since the last PageRank update of Google, it looks like it indeed happened (but in general, PageRanks fall and raise all the time and as every other SEO will tell you, is not important anyway :) )

Is this the beginning of the end of Spam 2.0? If you need a high PR to get good money with textlinks, but your PR falls if you do that (and your search engine position with it), it’s maybe a lot less interesting for the average and self-respecting site owner to do it. And if you do it correctly (with rel=”nofollow”), your clients don’t get any linklove anymore and paying for them doesn’t look that attractive anymore …

But maybe it’s just a big plot by Google, so that everyone will use AdSense in the future, since that certainly won’t have any decrease of your PR as consequence (but also doesn’t generate linklove for the advertiser). It’s certainly not only for the love of humankind Google does such things.

Via Markus Tressl

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Enterprise 2.0 Talk

Just as the advent of the Web had a profound impact on the way business is made and deals or done, the concepts under the “Web 2.0” umbrella term (social software, blogs, mashups, all the Ajax glitter etc.) are starting to influence the corporate mindset – even here in good old Switzerland. Or, along the lines of Euan Semple in “The 100% guaranteed easiest way to do Enterprise 2.0”: best thing organisations can do is get out of their employees’ way and let “Enterprise 2.0” happen with the least amount of control possible.

So when Switzerland’s most-hated company (Cablecom, our cable TV monopolist going for quadruple-play ..) came to us and allowed us to apply the lessons learned in our 2.0ish projects in corporate setup, something interesting had to come out for sure.

Now that thing called “Intraweb 2.0” has been presented and discussed in different places already and is going to presented, demoed and scrutinized once more at the upcoming Internet Briefing TechTalk, 2007-05-06 (next week!), 11.15-14.00, Zürich, Zunfthaus zur Schmiden.

The project is going to be presented by the client, but Chregu and me are going to attend as well (maybe you too?), so the entire range of topics should be covered somehow :)

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The first blogcamp Switzerland

Dsc 1141 2

… is over and I had lots of fun, met interesting new people and long-time-no-see “old” friends and had interesting discussions. I went to 2 presentations, the first by Jürg Stucker about namics’ internal multi-blog platform, quite interesting, as we currently build something similar for one of our customers (which was present, as well :) )

The second presentation was by blog.benbit.ch about XSS or as he put it “Wie man sich mit einem Blog unbeliebt macht.” (in English: “how to make oneself unpopular with a blog”). While he’s completely right that XSS is a dangerously underrated security issue and should be taken much more seriously (we blogged about it more than 2 years ago), his tone, arrogance (“at least one third in here will hate me now”) and technical half-knowledge was none the less a little bit annoying. One of his solution “don’t use auto-login” for example just raises the entry-barrier for exploiting XSS issues, but usually doesn’t help anything to prevent them at all. But at least he didn’t claim he’s a technical expert, so I can’t really blame him for that. Nevertheless an entertaining presentation and certainly opened up the eyes of a lot of people in that room, so mission accomplished :)

Now last but not least, a big thanks to the organizers, a well done “unconference”, I’ll be happy to come again next time.

More pictures by me at flickr and by the others and tons of blogposts.

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