Sunday Snapshots (9th June, 2019)

Facebook and careers, Write of Passage, and Book & Generosity

Hey everyone,

This has been a busy week as I’ve been wrapping up my preparation for finals. But during my study breaks, I came across:

  • How Facebook can help your career

  • Wrapping up a 6-week journey with David and Tiago

  • Generosity begets generosity

  • Blackstone and the e-commerce war

  • Losing the space to be inefficient

  • And more!

Book of the week

This week, I read Weird in a World That's Not by Jennifer Romolini. It's a quirky career advice-cum-memoir. Honestly, it was not a great read. The author has a unique story but her advice was fairly generic. If you’re in the market for books with good career advice, I’d recommend So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport or How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams.

Best long read of the week

Online Social Network Effects in Labor Markets: Evidence from Facebook's Entry into College Campuses

As someone who has moved around a lot, my primary use case for Facebook has been staying in touch with friends who I knew a long time ago but don't want day-to-day updates from. These relationships are known as "weak ties". This paper from Luis Armona claims that "access to Facebook for 4 years of college causes a 2.7 percentile increase in a cohort’s average earnings, relative to the earnings of other individuals born in the same year. This translates to an average nominal wage increase of $3,000−$5,000 in 2014" through the weak tie mechanism. His answers are robust to differences across universities and parental wages. He also controlled his results for other baseline attributes between students. Two things I found particularly interesting – 1) the lowest decile of wage earners gained the most from access to Facebook, and 2) the way Armona had to pick the data very, very carefully to create a natural experiment where the "treatment group" had access to Facebook and the "control group" didn't. If you needed further proof of the power of networks, this is it.

Personal failure/success of the week

Over the last couple of months, I have been working with David Perell and Tiago Forte as the course manager for their course Write of Passage. They wrapped up the first cohort earlier this week. The feedback from the students has been overwhelmingly positive:

I loved Write of Passage. It was the kick in the ass I needed. You’ve started something very special.

Really enjoying the course – the resources and guidance have been a game changer.

David – I remain in awe of what you and Tiago created, as well as your true humility and desire to iterate.

Even though most of these are directed at David and Tiago and they were truly the superstars of the course, it's nice to know that I facilitated that experience for the students in some small way. More broadly, I think we overestimate how much we can do as the main contributor on projects and underestimate how much we can do as second-degree contributors. Thanks to David and Tiago for letting me a part of this journey!

Gesture of the week

Generosity begets generosity

As a kid, there was only one thing that there was always money for in the family budget – books. My parents never didn't buy me a book I asked for. Here, Vlad Magdalin (@callmevlad) extends the same generosity to everyone else. But what makes this gesture special is how others join in and also start offering to buy books for others. This seriously took off!

Business move of the week

Blackstone Strikes $18.7 Billion Deal for U.S. Warehouse Network

To enable the customer experience of something like same-day shipping, companies require a massive logistical backbone. Warehouses are a key segment of this backbone. This week, Blackstone agreed to a deal to buy large chunks of the warehouse network in the US from Singapore-based GLP for $18.7 billion, making it "the largest private real-estate transaction ever."

For me, what's interesting is the backdrop of the e-commerce wars between Amazon and smaller brands. I see matching Amazon’s operations as the biggest hurdle for any competitor. This is because the two-day (now one-day) shipping expectation is a behavioral change that is very difficult to reverse. Bezos is right, customers are "divinely discontent" and they want ever increasing convenience. They don’t care about who wins the e-commerce war.

Blackstone doesn't care either. It just wants to own the bullets and bandages.

Random corner of the week

Losing the space to be inefficient: Too often, as we optimize for a very narrow goal, we lose the space to think broadly and connect different dots. This is how modern work is organized and might be the right approach for large companies. However, as an individual in the system, you have to think about what your goals are. If connecting dots across different domains is your competitive advantage, then in your efforts to be more efficient, you'll lose your competitive advantage. You need to give yourself the space to be inefficient.

Meal of the week

Last week, I had the chance to go back to Ramen-San in Fulton Market. I used to eat there all the time as my internship last summer was right across the street. This time, I tried their Kimchi & Fried Chicken Ramen. We also had the Raw Tuna sesame crisps. Both was exceptionable. Well worth a visit on a chillier summer night if you’re in West Loop. Follow it up with Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream on W. Randolph about two blocks away.


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