Secrets of a Veteran Consultant

Monday, 15 April 2013 14:31 Written by
Secrets of a Veteran Consultant

After many years of professional consulting — serving stakeholders from the server room to the board room — I moved into management and encountered fresh perspective. I learned things that I wished someone had told me early in my career. I became a stakeholder and ate the proverbial dogfood. And along the way, I learned things that are worth sharing. I hope these “secrets” resonate with someone (as I believe they would have resonated with me 20 years ago).

Leaders and managers in organizations wear many hats. While not an exhaustive list, they are the visionaries, facilitators, mentors, investigators, advocates, and of course, decision-makers. As a manager of security consultants, one of my roles was to optimize the delivery of (consultant) value to core business stakeholders. It is always a risk in consulting that value and cost can become conflated during delivery. The cost side of the balance sheet is all about measuring what you want to influence.  However, insuring that value is always well represented can be more challenging.  So I set out to explore why leaders and managers among my stakeholders and peers were not more fully engaging our consultants.

The simplicity and candor of these secrets may surprise you...

Hard Science and Philosophy

Monday, 12 July 2004 15:58 Written by
Hard Science and Philosophy

Is it even possible for scientists and mathematicians to understand or appreciate philosophy? Do they lack a neccessary nimbleness to discern philosophical questions or the impact of such answers? For many (most) among the "harder" sciences, philosophy shares a stage with religion, art, or fantastic child-like whimsy. Why is this? Could it be they are too judgmental or inflexible in their beliefs? Might they be too acquisitive to be distracted by the philosophical implications of their work? Are they not clever enough to understand it? Perhaps they are too shallow to even grasp fundamental questions?

Mike Alder (a mathematician) explains why practicioners of hard science don’t like philosophy but discretely pursue it anyway. He offers explination to explain why scientists and mathematicians are inclined to be dismissive of the subject. Additionally, Mr. Alder explains how and why they still explore philosophy pseudonymously.

The scientist’s perception of philosophy is that a philosophical analysis is a sterile word game played in a state of mental muddle. When you ask of a scientist if we have free will, or only think we have, he would ask in turn: “What measurements or observations would, in your view, settle the matter?” If your reply is “Thinking deeply about it”, he will smile pityingly and pass you by. He would be unwilling to join you in playing what he sees as a rather silly game.

Zarif to U.S. senators: You are ignorant of international law

The Iranian foreign minister on Monday reacted to an open letter to Iran’s leaders by 47 U.S. Republican senators who had warned Tehran that any nuclear deal that the Islamic Republic signs with President Barack Obama’s administration won’t last after Obama leaves office. Mohammad Javad Zarif said the letter lacks “legal validity” and shows that the signatories of the letter are “ignorant of international law”. “In our view this letter has no legal validity and is just a propaganda scheme,” Zarif noted. The letter proved that “like” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu these senators “are opposed to any deal”.

Zarif said it is surprising that while nuclear talks have not reached a result yet pressure groups in the U.S. have become so “worried” that they have resorted to any “unconventional way” to kill it. Expressing surprise on how it is possible that the legislators of a country write a letter against their own president and government to the leaders of another country, Zarif said, “The letter by the senators show that not only they are alien to international law but even not familiar with the details of the their own constitution about the authority of the president” in implementing foreign agreements.

SCOTUS: Citizens United is destroying America

Saturday, 28 February 2015 16:20 Written by
SCOTUS Seal

At the time that the ruling was delivered, Kennedy’s faith that access and influence would not corrupt the system was exceeded in curiousness only by his belief that the American people would feel similarly. But as the years have passed, and as studies showing the U.S. to be a donor-run system akin to oligarchy have gone mainstream, his declaration has begun to make a bit more sense. Just so long as “the electorate” is defined as the lobbying industry and its clients, his prediction looks downright clairvoyant.

One of the things the report from HuffPo’s Paul Blumenthal and Ryan Grim makes clear is the way Citizens United’s pernicious effect on lawmaking is at once deliberately opaque and ploddingly simple. But what’s lost in all the fuzziness, which Blumenthal and Grim deftly filter out, is that the world Justice Kennedy’s decision created was, by his own admission, supposed to be one in which even the appearance of corruption was negated.

America's Most Profitable

Sunday, 05 May 2013 11:23 Written by
America's Most Profitable

Successful companies frequently rely heavily on just one product for the majority of their sales and profit. Because each product represents such an outsized share of their respective company’s revenue, the products’ tremendous margins are the foundation of the company’s profit.  The most profitable products tend to rely on the power of their brand, which can command a premium price and sell extraordinary numbers of units.

These products are the most profitable for several reasons. Nearly all of them are the market leader in their sector and are mass produced at an unprecedented scale. As a result, the companies can apply significant pressure up and down their supply chain, ensuring they can manufacture the product at the lowest cost, and sell it to customers at the highest possible price.

What are the most profitable?  And why...

Facebook Cuts Deals to Track Your Online Activity

Facebook has announced that it’s teaming up with four of the world’s largest corporate data brokers to “enhance” the ad experience for users. Datalogix, Epsilon, Acxiom, and BlueKai obtain information gathered about users through online means (such as through cookies when users surf the web) as well as through offline means (such as through loyalty cards at supermarkets and product warranty cards).

Through the new relationship with Facebook, companies will be able to display advertisements to Facebook users based on data that these data brokers have on individuals. In practical terms, this means that limiting how much information you put on Facebook is not enough to limit how ads are targeted to you on Facebook.

Are You Smart on the Higgs Boson?

Friday, 15 March 2013 13:33 Written by
Are You Smart on the Higgs Boson?

Scientists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known as CERN, announced yesterday that they’re even more certain than they were last summer (like, more than 99.999999999 percent sure) that they've seen a Higgs boson particle—even if it’s not the Higgs boson particle.

Why does it even matter? Well, let's start with, this is a discovery that could potentially change our entire understanding of how the universe works. So, to avoid being a complete nub on this issue, what do you need to know and what can you say if someone brings up the subject?

Hackers Focus On Third-Party Targets

Thursday, 14 March 2013 12:05 Written by
Hackers Focus On Third-Party Targets

Significant flaws in Microsoft Operating Systems and programs are becoming a smaller portion of the total. Secunia reports that 86 percent of active vulnerabilities in 2012 affected third-party products such as Java, Flash and Adobe Reader. In 2007, third-party vulnerabilities made up less than 60 percent of the total.

On the plus side, the dangerous window between discovery of a vulnerability and creation of a patch is getting smaller. Secunia reports same-day patch availability for 80 percent of these threats in 2012, up from a bit over 60 percent in 2007. 

Hackers Get 10 Months to pwn Victims

Thursday, 25 October 2012 11:40 Written by
Hackers Get 10 Months to pwn Victims

"Tell no one, compromise everyone" -- Hackers exploit security vulnerabilities in software for 10 months on average before details of the holes surface in public, according to a new study based on a paper [PDF] on the research - Before We Knew It: An Empirical Study of Zero-Day Attacks In The Real World.

Two researchers from Symantec Research Labs identified 18 zero-day attacks between 2008 and 2011, and 11 of them were previously undetected. “A typical zero-day attack lasts 312 days on average and that, after vulnerabilities are disclosed publicly, the volume of attacks exploiting them increases by up to five orders of magnitude,” the researchers noted.

Romney and Obama MobiApps Threaten Your Privacy

Saturday, 01 September 2012 10:58 Written by
Romney and Obama MobiApps Threaten Your Privacy

John Leyden at The Register reports that security experts uncovered privacy concerns in mobile applications available from both the Barack Obama and Mitt Romney presidential campaigns. Researchers at GFI Software examined the Android versions of both products and are alarmed at the invasive nature of the offerings.

Obama for America and Mitt’s VP request permissions, access to services and data and demonstrate capabilities beyond product expectations.  Each of the apps cross-posts on users' behalf and report back to base.  More alarmingly, both apps slurp the details of users' contacts and log location data. The Romney app even requests permission to record audio for unspecified purposes.

Useless Business Jargon

Monday, 11 June 2012 19:36 Written by
Useless Business Jargon

The next time you feel the need to reach out, touch base, shift a paradigm, leverage a best practice or join a tiger team, by all means do it. Just don’t say you’re doing it.

People use jargon as a substitute for thinking hard and clearly about their goals and the direction they wish to give others.  Jargon masks meaning.  Jargon can mean different things to different people.  You might be saying one thing -- while your audience is hearing another.

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I don't agree with all of this, but it's food for thought. -rw