Do I ❤️ Notion

Just recently, Notion raised $50 million on a $2 billion valuation. I’ve been using this tool for quite a while now so I decided to share my experience with it:

A couple of years ago, I tried using Notion, I didn’t really like it at first so I stopped using it on the same day I signed up.

It was June of last year when I came across it again on Twitter and thought I’d give it another shot, which I’m glad I did.

Now, I use Notion for a lot of things: work, personal goals, and even to keep track of my bills. Before this, I was juggling Trello, Asana, Confluence and quite a number of google docs and sheets to keep track of my tasks and progress until it came to a point when I felt really frustrated having to use all of these tools, when Notion can replace and house almost everything that I want to see (at least to some extent).

I still think that Trello, Asana and all the other productivity tools are very effective, in fact I still use them from time to time, it’s just that Notion, being an all-in-one database, has made me more productive and efficient with my work and personal life.

Here’s the current layout of our command center on Notion.

To explain how I think Notion compares to the other tools I’ve used before, this is what I always say to my friends:

It’s like I was doing this thing, then I discovered this other thing that could help me do the same thing better.

So let me share what I love about Notion, so far:

✔️Interchangeable database views are my favourite. I literally just have to enter data once and Notion can present the information in which ever view I want to see it in — table, board, calendar, list or gallery.

✔️Allows collaboration in a small team. I remember when we first started a project, we kind of dumped everything in a shared iCloud note (spoiler alert: not very effective). All ideas / comms were there, in addition to our WhatsApp convos. Naturally, the note became too overwhelming overtime until it wasn’t effective anymore.

We thought about using Asana / Trello but realised we’re too small of a team to maximise the powers of these tools. Now, with Notion, we get Asana + Trello + (Confluence, Evernote, Airtable, etc) at least to some extent, in one program.

✔️Personalisation of our own workspace. when you first sign up with Notion, you’ll get a blank canvas, and it’s up to you to personalise and/or tweak the available templates to improve and make your workflow better. this made our team feel more involved, as though we actually own the program and we built it to cater to our and only our team’s own needs.

✔️Emojis. they make working with Notion a lot more fun!

✔️The mobile app. I’m always on the go, and may not always have an access to my computer. so whenever I need to delegate a task, or to remind myself to do something, I can easily do it with my phone.

All that said, if I were to be asked to rate my satisfaction with Notion, I’d say the following: I signed up for a paid account.

I know I can do a lot more things with it but I haven’t really gotten the chance to fully dive in and explore. but if there’s one thing that I can think of right now that I want Notion to have is a feature that automatically duplicates recurring tasks (to-dos) — Asana-like.

Now, my Notion workspace is nowhere near perfect and my team and I are constantly improving our ways of using it to maximise what it has to offer. but so far, I’m happy I decided to give Notion another shot.

Is the company worth a billion dollars? 🤷

Is their product worth a monthly subscription? Yes definitely worth a 💰

Remote Work 🕹️ is the New Normal

This blog post has been in my drafts for a year now, so thought it might be a good time to publish it with the edits in place. Just to show how my thinking has changed.

I’ve been a remote worker for one two years now, and here are my notes:

  • The tools are terribleZoom, Slack, Basecamp and that’s about it. New tools include Miro (whiteboards), Notion (collaboration app), Tandem (virtual office) and Around (better video chats), Tuple (pair programming). This space is going to grow faster now that remote work is the new normal, please comment with the best remote work tools you use and I will include them here.
  • The pros are great team options – You can hire anyone anywhere you want, but its a lot harder to hire good people remotely.
  • Focused communication – Less watercooler talk and more specific work. Having said that we've got a watercooler channel now on Slack and its quite active since people are in isolation.
  • People are being trained to write more using less words – Slack is helping people focus on precision
  • It’s tougher if you are not fully remote – HQ still has the in-person conversations which are not good for distributed workers
  • Take time to think – sitting in traffic, or waiting in line for coffee helps your mind decompress ideas, meditating or blocking time to be “bored doing nothing” helps a lot
  • M&A is not a viable option yet – Big companies not equipped to acquire remote teams
  • Requires a different type of leader- Leaders who care about (bonus if they're good at) aligning incentives, resources & outcomes
  • A good setup goes a long way - a good camera and comfortable spot is a lot better than the above mat and rug setup. Logitech Brio 4k, a solid wifi router and a good screen + desk/chair setup goes a long way.
Here’s my March 2020 home office set up

But give anyone the option to work remotely, and they will take it both hands down. The tools are terrible, but they will get better.

the ideal product maker

The most difficult role from my perspective is that of a product manager(maker), and here is my experience on hiring the ideal product makers.

In my experience, the best product makers are 10x smarter, faster & articulate than the average, are typically experienced in small teams/companies where they had clear accountability for their success, and lots of opportunities to learn from their failures. its seems a bit unconventional and time consuming to search based on this criteria as opposed to university, bigCo, … but in my experience once we get someone in they quickly justify all the effort to recruit them.

The best candidates had led from concept to product at smaller size companies/teams( sometimes their own) which gave them deep experience to rapidly identify anomalies/opportunities, and confidence to make unconventional decisions that are often needed for great products. They typically stood on top of a mountain of work.

They would then be able to communicate precisely & consistently to ensure alignment and rapid execution. Clear thinking and communication is the cornerstone of building a great product.

Another post for another day is to outline the system for figuring out the average, below average and 10x product maker.

OPEN Toronto Event

I had the pleasure to speak at a panel about entrepreneurship this past weekend, and here are some notes.

The event was held by OPEN (Organization of Pakistani Entrepreneurs of North America) and IAAC (IBA Alumni Committe)

The main speaker at the Event was Raghib Hussain, who founded Cavium, which was acquired by Marvell for $6Bn

the key messages were 1) build a great team 2) solve a real problem and 3) believe in yourself

Survival: what does it take to make it in a tech startup?

90% of startups fail. Only half of new Canadian startups survive past five years and a tiny percentage become global success stories. Heard from a diverse panel of tech entrepreneurs and founders on what it takes to build and scale a technology venture

Panelists:

  1. Ali Nawab SVP, Product at Sentiance, Past Founder and CEO of Kiwi.ai
  2. Maryam Mohiuddin Founder and Director Social Innovation Lab  
  3. Ahmad Iqbal, Founder – Scout

Program:

1. Ali Nawab SVP, Product at Sentiance, Past Founder and CEO of Kiwi.ai

Ali is an entrepreneur & angel investor in machine learning who learns by doing. He founded Kiwi.ai which built software used by many of the world’s leading companies such as Intel and IBM Watson. Kiwi was acquired by Sentiance where he leads Product & Technology. He writes about technology & Pakistani startups, and mentors entrepreneurs through Techstars, NEST and Founders Institute. Ali has a comp sci degree from FAST, an MBA from Ivey and worked in management consulting with Booz & Company in Dubai, and Deloitte Consulting in Toronto.

2. Maryam Mohiuddin Founder and Director Social Innovation Lab  


Maryam Mohiuddin Ahmed is the Founder and Director of the Social Innovation Lab,which hosts Pakistan’s first social enterprise incubator called ‘The Hatchery’. The SIL functions as a hub for Social Innovation in Pakistan and beyond, with a unique community engagement & consulting wing that combines sustainable development with concepts such as regenerative design and appropriate technology.

In 2016, Maryam co-founded ‘Daftarkhwan’, a human-centered set of co-working and community spaces across Lahore. She is an Acumen and Laureate Global fellow, who also happens to be a runaway lawyer and received an LL.M. with a specialisation in International Law from the University of California, Berkeley.

3. Ahmad Iqbal, Founder – Scout

Ahmad is a serial entrepreneur getting his start dropshipping promotional products in university for companies like Ernst & Young, Telus, and TEDx events. From there him and his business partner pivoted to developing ticketing and registration software for tradeshows which they eventually folded. During a brief stint in consulting, Ahmad returned to entrepreneurship by starting a bidet ecommerce store called Nadeef, from which he started building ecommerce tools for other online merchants. Today, him and his small team at HMScommerce.com have built three apps with over 16,000 businesses using their tools.

money // pre & post

those who dont have it think its the ultimate end
those who do have it think it doesnt matter

its the journey that matters, enjoying the
ride & stops along the way appears the wisdom