Sunday Snapshots (16th June, 2019)

Specialization, Internet trends, Notion, and Horizontal Networking

Hey everyone,

As I officially kickoff summer tomorrow, I want to tell you about my Summer of Learning where I will write 60 articles over the next 10 weeks. I hope you take a look.

With finals wrapped up, I finally got some time this weekend to take a break and explore some of the things I’ve put off for a while.

This week I came across these ideas:

  • Specialists vs. Generalists

  • Freemium business models, automated finances, and data firehoses

  • Wrapping up Junior year

  • Setting up my favorite app

  • The “Polar Silk Road”

  • Horizontal networking

  • And more!

Book of the week

David Epstein’s Range is the latest book that everyone seems to be reading. The premise is simple – when you’re starting out, it’s better to try a bunch of different things before focusing on a specialty. While Epstein does a really good job of laying out studies and anecdotes, I’m not sure what the policy prescriptions of this book are. Yes, exploring different things early on will probably lead to a better career match in terms of your skills set and temperament, but does that mean that you should be averse to specialization? There is some interesting debate to be had here and I do want to finish the book (~70% done) before making any strong judgements.

Long read of the week

Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends Report

This is an annual must read and a data geek’s dream. Mary Meeker at Bond Capital gives a 40,000 foot view of what the hell is happening on the internet. Some ideas that caught my attention were:

  • Customers, businesses, and regulators are drinking from a data firehose. I would argue that this understates the problem. They have multiple firehoses that they are trying to drink from.

  • Looker and Segment are two companies helping businesses make sense of these firehoses – and two pieces of software I will be using this summer at my internship.

  • Automating finances using apps like Betterment, Acorns, and Wealthfront is attractive because of ease-of-use, clever savings strategies (like rounding up your purchases to the next dollar) and a gentle learning curve.

  • Freemium business models work, but only if you have a mechanism for virality and monetization baked into the product. Example: Existing users invite others to use Zoom and there is a length limit on calls hosted by free users.

  • Word of mouth is still the most powerful recommendation engine for e-commerce businesses.

  • The exponential growth of data usage in India post-2016 due to dirt cheap data plans provided by Reliance Jio (screenshot below).

Meeker also gave a talk based on the report that you can see here.

Personal failure/success of the week

I wrapped up my third year of undergrad this week. Junior year was by far the most exciting year of college. I was challenged academically and professionally, often not getting what I wanted. But a rebalancing of priorities to enable exposure to new ideas and making time for strengthening friendships ensured that this was also my most fulfilling year. I’m not really sure if it was a success or failure, but it was an amazing experience.

Gesture of the week

Ben Lang (@benln) offers an open invitation to help 5 people set up Notion. Notion is a personal-wiki style productivity app that I’ve been using for the past 6 months. If you need any help or are curious about Notion, please send your questions my way by replying to this emailing or sending my a DM on Twitter at @sidharthajha.

Business move of the week

China, Russia Carriers to Ship Gas on Arctic Route

I wrote about Bethany McLean’s Saudi America a couple of weeks ago and one of the takeaways from the book was the relative dominance of natural gas over petroleum that has emerged over the last two decades. This week, national Chinese and Russian shipping carriers signed a plan to ship natural gas through the Arctic Circle from the Russian fields in Siberia to Asian and Western markets.

Energy and national security have to be in tune with each other – something that the US has not been able to achieve according to McLean. China and Russia maintain state-granted monopolies in critical sectors of the economy, including energy, which makes it easy for them to achieve this objective.

There are also environmental concerns to this. The Arctic Circle has only become ocean carrier-friendly due to rising temperatures and melting of ice caps. This move cannot be helping that.

Random corner of the week

Young professionals often reach out to more experienced ones. This can be valuable as you avoid the mistakes that they have made and get an idea of what paths are available to you. You can also help others less experienced than you and tell them about how you navigated the choices that they are facing right now.

Cherie Hu (@cheriehu42) argues that it’s better to spend time discussing your career with your peers. They are facing the same challenges as you and probably have similar backgrounds, but might have an interesting perspective on things that helps you push through a particular problem. We often see our peers as our competitors, but by recruiting them on your mission you make them invested in your success and become invested in theirs.

Meal of the week

This was my first meal after finishing finals. I had Crispy Fish tacos at Taco Diablo right here in Evanston. Food tastes better when you’re hungry and tired. Thankfully, I was both!


That wraps up this week’s Sunday Snapshots. If you want to discuss any of the ideas mentioned above or have any books/papers/links you think would be interesting to share on a future edition of Sunday Snapshots, please reach out to me by replying to this email or send me a direct message on Twitter at @sidharthajha.

Until next Sunday,

Sid