The Collaborative No. 8
Today we are featuring Everyday Visionary Cole Mercer, Product Management Specialist, Consultant and Educator.
One thing that is hard to miss when you first meet Cole Mercer is his smart subtle sense of humor. This may be his secret weapon in teaching and guiding teams through the process of achieving goal. His roles require honesty and sometimes people are not used to the kind of honesty that is necessary for the success of a greater goal.
Cole creates a perfect crossroad for transparent evidence-based decision making and relationship management. His vision is both deep and wide, looking at the details while never straying from the final vision.
You can connect with Cole Mercer on social media by clicking this link:
- Where do you currently work?
Self employed freelance consultant and product management / strategy course instructor. Formerly SoundCloud in Berlin.
- What is your current role?
Wait, I just answered this!
- How would you describe to a child what you do for a living?
I'll answer this question three times because I do 3 primary things (wear 3 "hats"). When wearing my product management hat, I work to understand people's problems and solve them through making products that do that. When wearing my consultant hat, it varies from client to client, but primarily I tell people how to un-fuck their businesses when it comes to technology and/or strategy. When I wear my teaching hat, I teach people very complex things in a non-complex and fun way. Basically the opposite of what a textbook does.
- What do you hope you have a reputation for as a professional?
This is a tricky one, because my strength is also my weakness. I'm very direct, opinionated, and like to question almost everything. Some people dislike working that way, and I understand that. On the other hand, a lot of others love it. So, my hope would be that my reputation is for being a straight shooter that won't fluff you up with corporate jargon, and that you'll always know exactly what my opinion is. Basically, just being "transparent and effective" over "politically careful".
- What is an accomplishment from your career that meant the world to you?
Probably when I finally launched my first online course back in 2016. Making it was 4 months of no free nights, weekends, or vacations while I sat in my Berlin apartment-turned-film-studio talking to myself in front of a camera and falling into a deep depression. This was on top of a normal full time job. But, the launch was worth it.
- What is one of the biggest lessons you’ve had to learn the hard way in your career?
Personality types and emotional intelligence. I used to think everyone "thought" like me. Or, that just by saying something to someone as I'd like to hear it would work best. Becoming a people manager and working with people from all over the world taught me that I needed to tailor my work with others to their preferred styles or personality types. It also taught me that, unlike me, not everyone loves aggressively debating contentious topics as much as I do. So, in essence, I've learned to restrain myself when necessary and consider the emotional side of people I work with.
- What are some of your go-to sources of inspiration and staying on top of emerging trends that impact your field or industry?
Launch Ticker, Twitter (as toxic and snarky as it is, ugh), Techmeme, Hackernews, and nerding out on app store update logs on my phone
- What is something you need in your work environment in order to thrive in your role?
If I was currently at a full time job, it'd be a good manager and/or executive leadership that's both competent and understands your personality type. In my last role I reported to an outstanding executive who helped me do my best work. But, in the past I've had nightmare managers. Switching jobs and getting a new manager is like playing Russian Roulette, seriously. A good or bad manager / leadership can make the difference between an enjoyable job and a never-ending hell of stress, anxiety, and florescent office lighting. I make it a practice to interview my potential boss more than they interview me, and it's amazing that so many people don't know what type of personality is going to be managing them until they start on day 1.
- What you envision for your customers/clients/stakeholders/ patients/citizens/students, etc.?
A clear, actionable path to follow through a world of marketing bullshit. There's so much confusion out there in tech with all of the roles, frameworks, organization types, "gurus", methodologies, etc. Most of the time all of this is made worse by classes or getting a consultant that wants to make sure you pay them month after month. Worse yet, they usually just give you a slide deck with graphs on it in exchange for the thousands you paid them. I just like making things simple and telling folks the most important parts, then how they can act on them. This is especially true for my students....as little fluff as possible and no textbook BS.
- What is one of the biggest challenges you are facing or trying to solve right now?
Paying down the rest of these god forsaken, soul crushing student loans. But hey, I signed the contract, so I take full responsibility and I'll get em paid one way or another. My second biggest problem is my inability to get a cute af puppy dog because I'm rather nomadic and have commitment anxiety.
- When and where do you tend to get your ideas?
I'll quote Elon Musk on this one: "In the shower, and at Burning Man"
- What are three of your favorite books?
Think and Grow Rich (don't judge the title, dude - it's not about money).
The Daily Stoic
Any good autobiographies on high achievers. Oh, you wanted fiction? HARRY F*CKING POTTER. Not kidding.
- What’s one of your favorite non-profits?
- If you could collaborate with any group or individual in the world, who would be your top three picks?
Elon Musk, obviously.
Google Calico or Google X
- What would you want to collaborate on with the people/groups you just mentioned?
Biotech, Health, Robotics, Aeronautics, or VR. Basically, stuff I love but am not an expert in...with the goal of learning it.
- If you were invited to give a TED Talk (or have given one), what would you speak about?
This may have already been done, but I'd speak about how right this moment, everything is better than ever before. In other words, there's objectively no better time to be alive than right now. Of course, many people are absolutely in tough spots, but I'm talking about broad statistics here. This is important because over the last 8-10 years one might have been led by social media or increasingly sensationalized news to believe things are somehow getting worse. It's just not true. On average, everything is better than ever, and it's improving every day. Exciting time to be alive, ya'll!
- How do you unwind at the end of a stressful day?
Video games, but then I get all amped up again on the competition. It's a vicious cycle.
- What do you think your 80-year-old self would tell you right now?
"Hey asshole, if you would have stuck to the meditation habit and bought a puppy instead of that motorcycle I'd be alive right now"
- What do you think your 10-year-old self would be most impressed with about your life right now?
Probably nothing, and most likely he'd be disappointed. I was an idealistic little kid and I'm def way behind on my 10 year old self's schedule for what I'd have done by now. Fuckin' brat, life is hard, you'll see.
- What does your creative process entail when you're doing what you do best?
Thinking about something very deeply, then simultaneously making an absolutely incomprehensible free-flowing idea and question outline on paper or in a text document. Then I purposefully go read, think, or watch something else and imagine how that topic could connect to what I was thinking about. Another thing I do is just ask myself "why" over and over, which many times eventually leads me to some common thread between topics.
- If there were more hours in the days, what would you do with them?
Start a charity or non profit that's actually effective for small groups of people not served by larger ones. Or, at least write out a solid plan for how to ensure it doesn't devolve into one of the mega-charities we hear about that pay the executives millions and utilize only a few cents of every dollar donated.