Switzerland has a navy?


Apparently so, although it used to be bigger.

the Swiss flag currently flies on only 14 ocean vessels, well down from the 50 ships in 2017. In that year, an embarrassing shipping fraud cost the taxpayer CHF215 million ($237 million), forcing a rethink of maritime strategy.

via SwissInfo.ch

What Stripe Gets Right


I recently made the decision to leave Stripe and join Macro Oceans full time. This was a difficult decision and was more about not wanting to miss the opportunity to build Macro Oceans rather than quitting Stripe.

While I was working at YouTube, I began doing something that really helped me: team and company cultures the way I would about a friend. They have a lot of good qualities and some faults. [0]

But when you’re working somewhere everyday, even little faults can be really grating, the way that you might have a friend you really enjoy who you can’t stand after two weeks traveling together.

Part of my breakthrough was to spend more time focusing on the virtues rather than the faults. I also began to accept that the faults developed over time and would take time to change. This made it easier for me to navigate through the things that drove me a little crazy: it was part of what made the place what it was.

With this context, I want to reflect a little bit about what Stripe gets right, if only so I can remember it. These aren’t the only things about Stripe or a balanced picture of what it’s like to work there, but the things I want to remember and to emulate. [1]

  • Ambition: Stripe is a place where you are asked to do work that changes the world. Even if you’re starting small, you’re looking towards the bigger picture and asking how you can do more, faster. This can be uncomfortable, but having worked places where this wasn’t a part of the DNA, I really appreciate it.
  • Brand building: Stripe has mastered the art of elevating their work through story telling and myth making. This is truly cultural. I spent more effort polishing a demo for an all hands than I did for external communications at prior companies.
  • Talent: Somewhat related to the brand building, the level of talent at Stripe is the highest of any place I’ve worked. [2] The conversations within my team happened at an incredibly high level, which is infectious. It’s fun to work somewhere where you are pushed to do your best work just to keep up with others. Somewhat related, I have so many people I’m going to miss working with.
  • Engineering culture: The craftsmanship of the engineering teams in particular will always stick with me. Stripe is not a place where the user experience is pushed off onto Product Managers and Designers. This is modeled by senior leaders — engineers are expected to care about making something awesome. As a product manager, this makes my job so much easier. I still have to make the case for priority (should we solve this problem next) or return on investment (is this worth the time we’ll spend on it), but never for quality as a principle.
  • Responsiveness: Individual Stripes react quickly to problems. You see this on Twitter where posts about problems lead directly to responses. Stripe as an organization reacts to changes, be they market conditions or other strategic factors. New information is put to use quickly.
  • Ideas: Stripe is a very philosophical place. One of my favorite parts of working at Stripe is a slack channel that is devoted to strategy, but the art of doing great work, building a great company, and where progress comes from. Whenever I was in the midst of a particularly fast paced project or under a deadline, this slack channel kept the creative aspect of the work in my mind.

0: At every company where I’ve worked as an adult, with one possible exception, the good qualities outweighed the faults pretty significantly.

1: I enjoyed my time at Stripe and on some level wish it had been longer. If you’re considering a job at Stripe and want more detail about my experience, feel free to reach out: jdillaxyz@gmail.com.

2: The possible exception here is Bain. The difference that at Stripe the talent level is high and distributed across functions whereas Bain everyone basically did the same thing — corporate strategy.

US marriage rates



Amazing statistics from Pew. In 1980 63% of 25 year olds were married and 39% had children at home!

I'm agnostic to whether or not this is a good or a bad change, but I'm amazed at how different it is.

Notes on You and Your Research by Richard Hamming


You and Your Research is a talk given by Richard Hamming about how to navigate once’s career. It’s packed with insight and is on the short list of essays I feel like I should return to every couple of years.

Some of the perspectives that resonated with me:

  • The cost of fighting the system: “By realizing you have to use the system and studying how to get the system to do your work, you learn how to adapt the system to your desires. Or you can fight it steadily, as a small undeclared war, for the whole of your life.” Talk about something I needed to internalize when I was 20.

  • The role of courage in doing great work. A recurring theme is that you have to believe you are capable of solving important problems and work with the intention of solving them. This is definitely something I’ve felt at companies where I’ve worked; some places there is an unsaid feeling that certain things are beyond us as a company where the more successful places I’ve worked (Stripe, YouTube) felt like anything was possible and invited people to believe that.

  • The humility required to do great work repeatedly. As you become more successful, it becomes harder to work on small problems because you’re now a big person who does big things; but major breakthroughs usually start in small places. This is another theme I’ve felt places where I’ve worked. There’s something interesting, but it’s not yet at scale yet, so it gets ignored, the problem being that when it does scale, you’re too late to make an impact.

  • The role of framing ones work. You should actively be reframing your work towards what matters; even mundane tasks can be elevated if you think about what makes them mundane or where they fit in the greater context of the project or the company. Similarly, you can also use your weaknesses to uncover opportunities to do great work as other people likely share those weaknesses, so if you find a way to make this task easy for them, then you’ve done something substantial.

  • The compounding impact of effort. “Knowledge and productivity are like compound interest. Given two people of approximately the same ability, one person who works ten percent more than the other, the latter will more than twice outproduce the former.” Even more important when you consider the importance of picking the problems you work on (vs. just adding hours to the day).

  • Mapping the field. To do truly great work, you need to have a mental map of your field, what the great unsolved problems are, which ones on the brink of being solvable. These are the “important problems”; you also want to have ideas on likely paths for solving them. This helps you notice when there is an opportunity to step in. As an example, time travel isn’t an important problem because there isn’t a “line of attack”, but AGI is because we do.

  • Find the flaws. Almost a corollary of the previous note, you need to have a sense for where current accepted wisdom is flawed or incomplete (in Hammings words, what are the faults in the current theory). This requires tolerance of ambiguity — you accept the current wisdom but also poke at it

  • Time to think. You should be reserving time to think about big problems and big solutions to those problems. Hamming reserved Friday afternoons for “big thoughts”.

  • Be opportunistic. When an opportunity to solve an important problem opens up, drop everything to go after it.

  • Make room for serendipity Keep your door open to others.

  • Presentation and selling matters; you have to be able to convince other people of your ideas, which requires meeting those people where they are.

  • The impact of WW2 on ingenuity. He notes, speaking about WW2: “The war forced them into an uncomfortable situation and forced them to have an open mind, and then they drafted off of that. But the current generation doesn’t have that.” This is a different post, but I’ve seen this theme in a couple of different things I’ve read where the generation that lives through the effort to win WW2 learns certain habits about how to work that they struggle to verbalize. There seems to be a practicality, especially around the little details that make the difference between a successful project and a failure, a desire to see up close and do all of the steps oneself, an simplicity of communication and expectation that others will contribute to the group.