Developing The Skills For Success With Mark Herschberg


Success doesn’t just mean hard work. To truly succeed you need a great mindset and the skills for success. Tony Martignetti talks skills development and success with Mark Herschberg, author, speaker and fractional CTO. Mark describes his journey towards success, starting from lessons learned in MIT to the A-ha! moment where he realized how important soft skills are in many aspects both professional and personal life. Tune in to learn and be inspired by Tony and Mark as we sit around the virtual campfire.


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Developing The Skills For Success With Mark Herschberg

It is my honor to introduce you to my guest, Mark Herschberg, the author of The Career Toolkit: Essential Skills for Success That No One Taught You. He's educated at MIT and spent his career launching and fixing new ventures at startups, Fortune 500s and academia. He's developed new software languages, online marketplaces, new authentication systems and tracked criminals and terrorists on the dark web.

Mark helped create the Undergraduate Practice Opportunities Program, MIT's career success accelerator, where he's taught for many years. He also serves on the boards of nonprofits, teaches techie youth and plants one million corals. He was one of the top-ranked ballroom dancers in the country and lives in New York City, where he is known for his social gatherings, including his annual Halloween Party and diverse cufflink collection. Mark, it is my honor and pleasure to welcome you to the show.

Thanks so much for having me on the show. I'm excited to be here.

You are truly a character. With an intro like that, I can't help but want to know more about each and everything you've got on there. I'm so grateful to have you on the show. What we do on this show is help people uncover their stories and share them with others. What was the journey that got you to where you are? What were the points along the journey that revealed who you are? We talk about it through what's called flashpoints, these points that have ignited your gifts into the world. That's what we're going to do. I'm looking forward to uncovering that.

I've had quite a few flashpoints in my life.

With that, Mark, please take it away and share your story.

Probably the first one I remember is when I was about 8 or 9 years old. I was very into, at that point, UFOs, the pyramids, aliens and all sorts of things in that area. I'd read books about it. One of the things they talk about when you talk about UFOs and things like that is black holes. I remember my older cousin. When I saw him, he was talking about his Physics class in high school. They were studying black holes and what black holes are. I thought, "If physics is where you learn about black holes, that's what I want to do." It was around age 8 or 9 that I realized I wanted to study Physics, which I ultimately did at MIT.

Although due to perhaps a later flashpoint, I ultimately did not go into that field and didn't get my PhD there. The one other moment, when I was going into ninth grade, I was interested in being a lawyer. I thought I did Physics and Law because why not? I don't like myself to one thing but the elective that was offered in my high school that would've been closest to Law called Justice wasn't offered. My guidance counselor said, "What do you want to do instead?" "I don't know. I don't have a backup. I thought I could take that class."

Never compare yourself to average. It doesn’t help those of us who want to be significantly above average.

She said, "Why don't I sign you up for computer programming?" I thought, "No, I don't want to do that," but I didn't have another option. She convinced me to do what I thought I'll find something later but I never did. I showed up to class the first day and said, "This sounds interesting." By the end of the week, I loved it. Thanks to that guidance counselor. She got me into computers. She saw what was coming. This was in the late '80s. She said, "Computers are getting big." Ultimately, when I did go to MIT, I double majored in Physics and Computer Science. I minored in Political Science, still thinking I might want to go into Law but ultimately didn't.

When you think about the different fields of interests, especially when we're in those college years, you still have these passion projects, the things that you want to hold on to but you think, "How can I be real and connect to something that I can do something with?" I think back to some of my favorite classes in school too. Some of my favorites were Organizational Development and Anthropology but my major was Finance.

My overall favorite class is History of Science. It was fascinating. I wish I had taken more of it.

Tell me what happens. Here you are in school. You're taking all these very fascinating courses. What did you do? You went through all the programs. You ended up graduating with what?

I have an Undergraduate Degree in Physics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. My Master's Degree is in Computer Science, focused on Cryptography. I'd always loved secret codes as a kid. MIT is one of the best cryptography departments. Thanks to Anne Hunter, who is a course administrator for the department. When I told her I liked photography, she said, "I'm going to have Ron Rivest as your advisor." People outside the field won't know him but if you ever remember RSA, that was the encryption that made sure your credit cards were safe. He's the R of RSA.

She assigned him as my advisor, which was wonderful. He then became my thesis advisor in grad school but I had this other inflection point when I was a junior. I was talking to my Physics adviser. He sat me down and said, "What are you thinking of doing?" I said, "I want to be a theoretical physicist. He looked at me and said, "The problem with theoretical physics is that there are about 100 people who lead the field and everyone else just follows along." What he was politely saying is, "You're not one of those 100."

Granted, my grades weren't spectacular because I didn't study much at MIT. My study habits were terrible. Admittedly, even if I had, I'm still not sure I would've been one of the top 100 physicists. Those guys are truly incredible. I'm not sure I'm one of the top 100 in the world for that. He politely said, "I don't think you have a future there." At the same time, physics funding was starting to decline. The Cold War had come to an end. There was a lot less funding for the Department of Defense. Meanwhile, software computers seem to be taking off. That's why I switched over and focused in grad school on Computer Science.

I was thinking of doing a PhD. I'm very glad I did not. Although it would have been nice to get that accomplished, a part of me says, "I would've liked to check that box what a PhD does for you." The doors it opens where it takes you is not anywhere that I want to go. I did back then but I wouldn't have been happy having gone down that path. I made the right choice leaving with a Master's degree.

VCP 165 | Skills For SuccessWithout any other sense of what I wanted to do, I spent a year at MIT delaying the decision. I was on the research staff. Looking for a job, at the time Wall Street would come to MIT but I didn't want to do Wall Street. A big tech would come. Back then, big tech was IBM and Microsoft. I didn't want to do that. Consulting, I didn't want to do a consulting job. I didn't know what I wanted to do and then I fell into a startup out of eliminating all the other choices. That turned out to be right for me. I didn't know it at the time. It wasn't intentional. I had no direction but that turned out to be a good choice. It helped instill in me that love for startup companies.

Here you are at MIT thinking like, "I can't stand out." You're already in this place that is vaulted as being the place to be. It's not like some slouch of a location in terms of being in a school. You're already amongst the elite. Standing out amongst the elite is hard to do in its own right. You often hear this, even for people like Harvard or Stanford. It's hard to compete when you are already amongst so many amazing people. You're going to be proud of the fact that you are already in great company.

The thing to remember is when you go to one of these schools, all of a sudden, 50% of you are below average. You've never been below average in your life and suddenly you are. Thankfully, I wasn't that bad. I was above average even at MIT but I wasn't in that top 1% anymore like the 1% of the 1%. That wasn't there and that was a first for me. One thing I've always done in my life is that I have never compared myself to average because I don't think that helps us for those of us who want to be significantly above average.

I always compare myself to my peer set and then say, "I want to do better," which brings me to a new level. That's my new peer set. For example, my book came out and it's doing pretty well. The sales numbers are good. By any metric, you say, "That's a pretty good book." It has not been on the New York Times Bestseller list. My friends have been on the New York Times and The Wall Street Journal Bestseller list. Those are the people I compare myself to. Even though the numbers are good, they're not good for the peer group I have selected. Wherever I am, I always find the peer group, try to beat it and find a new peer group.

It's all how you look at it too, as long as it doesn't defeat you but drives you. It's all the mindset you take into it. It has to be a healthy mindset and not one of like causing you to be in a constant place of stress.

I could wallow in sadness every day that I'm not on the New York Times Bestseller list but instead, I see it as a goal to strive for. It's a stretch. I'm realistic on some of this. Without a PhD, I'm no longer going to win a Nobel Prize. That's probably not going to happen. I've come to accept that.

I want you to take me back into working with the startups and tell me your journey there. What was it like? You found a spot where you enjoyed it but what was it like during those early days for you?

It was fun. I had a very supportive team. I realized there was a lot more to learn than what I had gotten in school. I was maybe a little cocky when I first came out and then suddenly realized how little I knew. Thankfully, it's a great environment. I was happy there and probably would have been there for years on end. I had no real sense of direction. I have a job. The job is good. If I keep doing it, I assume everything will work out.

Something interesting happened. One day, my boss called me into his office and said, "This may come as a surprise to you or maybe not but this is my last day at the company. I'm leaving. I'm going to go start my firm. My right-hand man is coming with me. We'd like for you to come too." This was totally out of the blue. Although, it should not have been. There were signs if only I had paid attention to them. I realized I had a choice. Did I want to go with him? Do I want to stay? The other founders of the company had a falling out. They said, "We know he's leaving and taking some people. We like you. We'd love for you to stay."

We don't just say leadership is only for people at the C level or the only people need to know how to negotiate our salespeople. All of us benefit from these skills.

I had to make a choice. How do I make it? Which one's right for me? I had to think about my future, where I wanted to go and create some type of valuation metric to determine which job was better. I had an epiphany. This was winter or fall 1999. It was top of the dot-com market. I have more than two choices. There are lots of companies out there who are all trying to hire tech people. I could stay where I am, move to this company that he's starting up or go to any other company out there.

The choice became a lot more complicated. I had to create a clear valuation metric and determine what was right for me. I realized, "There's another company out there. I found that was going to be a better fit," but that was the moment I first realized I needed to drive forward my career. I'm going to pull back to college. I had multiple degrees, majors, minors and Master's. To fit it all in, I had to do a lot of planning.

Which class do I take this semester because it's a pre-req for that one but this is only taught in the fall, not the spring? How do I double count this class towards this and that requirement? It was a lot of scheduling Jenga trying to get all fit. Each semester, I'd sit down and make my schedule for the rest of my time at MIT to make sure it all fit. I discovered, "I have a conflict with these classes. I can't do both. I've got to resort everything. I do this on paper."

That is one of the things that led when I think about my career. I sit down and say, "This is what I'm doing this year. What am I doing 3, 5, 10 years out? How do my decisions impact what's going on in the future?" It was trying to squeeze everything together at MIT that helped me understand how to formulate a career plan for getting where I wanted to go once I was out of MIT.

I love that you're taking this almost a scientific approach to career planning. Some people will say, "Put a vision in place and move towards it," but you're taking almost a scientific approach where you're saying, "Look at the map, try to think about what's your hypothesis and map it all out."

I want to give it less credit than that. Consider the following, imagine you're at work and your CEO says, "This is a critical project for the company. I'm putting you in charge of it." Would you say, "We're going to put up that vision board, cross our fingers and hope we achieve the project in two years?" Of course, not. You're going to create a project plan, budget and schedule. You're going to have check-ins. You're going to see, "We're a little behind. What do we do?"

You know the project's going to change and that's okay. That's how you're going to run a project that's 1, 2 years. Even six months at your company, you're going to do all this. For your career for the next 10, 20 years, you’re saying, "No, let's not bother. Let’s wing it. Everything we do, we should be doing for our careers." That's why I talk about in the book how you can create such a plan.

This is a long time ago but you've been using it since then. You've been applying it to clients. I want to hear more about how this took the legs from there because that's a powerful concept to bring into career planning.

VCP 165 | Skills For Success

As I was deciding where I wanted to go, one of the things that I realized was I wanted to become a CTO, Chief Technology Officer. it’s like I said, "This is a degree I want. What are the requirements I need for that degree? I have to take these and those classes, all of this and then get the degree." What are the requirements I need to be a CTO? I can't just be a good programmer. That helps. Honestly, I'm the worst programmer than when I was coding 50, 60 hours a week.

There were other skills that I would need to be a good CTO like leadership, communication, negotiating and team building. No one ever taught me these skills. They're not in a standard class. There's no major in college that says, "Here are all the skills you need that will make you successful." I realized there was a skills gap. Part of my career plan wasn't just, "I want this job, this job title and more money." It was, "How do I fill in the skills gap?" I eventually qualify to be a CTO. That became my plan, how to achieve what I needed to get to where I wanted to go, which was to be a CTO.

It's a skills gap, understanding it and then executing on that plan so that you can allow yourself to get to, "This is where I want to be. How do I get there?"

Back then, there weren't as many resources to help you do this. We didn't have great shows like this. I was reading lots of books. I go to seminars, in-person and other things when I could. We didn't have webinars back then. I would pick jobs that would expose me to certain areas. I spent a year working at Harvard Business School. I sat 3 feet from a professor. That's how I learned Finance. I had HBS pay me to learn Finance. Most people have to pay them to learn it. I got them to pay me. I think strategically to move me along the way. As I was developing these skills, I realized the skills aren't just for senior people. We don't say, "Leadership is only for people at the C-level. The only people that need to know how to negotiate are salespeople."

All of us benefit from these skills. I began to work to upskill my teams. As I was doing so, I had heard from MIT. They had been doing surveys of companies because we send lots of our kids to companies when they graduate. The company said, "These are the skills that we want to see in employees, leadership, communication, negotiating and strong networks." These are skills they don't want to see from MIT grads. They want to see in everyone, all levels of experience, backgrounds and fields but they can't find it. MIT was putting together a program to help teach these skills.

When I heard of that, I reached out and said, "I hear you're trying to do this. I've been developing some stuff within my organization. I'm happy to share and give my notes to you, anything I can do to help." That was it. I thought I'd go, chat with them, help them out and that was the end of it. "Please come talk to us." I spent a lot of time, significantly more than I thought. After helping them out for a few weeks, the head of the program said, "We'd love for you to come help teach because we had thought we'd have our professors teach."

We have great professors at Sloan at the School of Engineering but what he realized is that practitioners like me brought something extra to the program that the professors didn't have. He said, "What I want to do is get you to come to join us. We'll get some other people like you and have it co-taught by professors and practitioners." I said, "It sounds fun." We started the class. Those early years, we were almost making it up as we went. We'd have to do reflections each night. "What worked? What didn't work? What do we need to change?"

This was not a lecture class. This was a hands-on interactive, experiential class. There was lots of tweaking going on. I have been teaching there for many years. This has been effectively a side job. I'm still a CTO. I still build tech companies startups. I help Fortune 500 but for many years, I've been teaching at MIT. I've taught elsewhere from time to time. It turned into the book. The class was a big influence on parts of the book and then the speaking. From that one outreach and that, "Can I be of help to you," led to this whole new path in my life.

You never know when one little thing can lead you down a different path.  

There are two things I want to dig into because it's so fascinating. Oftentimes, there's this one little path that can be opened up through a conversation and taking a chance that can completely change your life. That's such great insight. Many people overlook those things and don't think, "That's not going to work out. There's nothing that's going to happen for me in that way." I've heard this story multiple times on this show and beyond. It has been a game-changer. You got to take those chances when they come.

I also wanted to hone in on the power and being able to be playing in both fields if you can balance it, of being in the industry and academia at the same time. They reinforce each other, complement and allow you to say, "Here it is. I'm teaching it and also applying it." That's powerful to see that in action. The question I have for you is how did you balance it? How did you find the sanity to be able to do it? A CTO role in its own right is a lot of work.

Certainly, teaching at MIT isn't full-time. I have some flexibility. I do a little less that I'm in New York than I did when I was in Boston. I have to do the bigger things where I come up and commit a block of time. Back then, I could pop in for an afternoon or evening activity to do that. It's a bigger commitment. One of the great benefits was I continue to develop and learn by teaching, especially by the fact that we had all these other teachers. I know a lot more from having taught for many years than when I began because I learned from other people, even from my students, in some ways. It's great. Teaching helps you to continue to grow and learn. To the first point, you never know where one little thing can lead you down a different path.

I'm the person saying, "Have a career plan," but I’m also the first to say, "It's important to have a plan but like our project plans, they change." Sometimes they go completely out the window. We've had 6 months into a 1 year-long project where the CEO says, "Change of plans. We're killing the project. We have a new direction." That happens. It's important to say, "There's a new opportunity. Let me reevaluate." If you have a sense of where you're trying to go, whether that's making a certain amount of money or doing certain types of growth or types of work, you can then say, "There's a new option here. Does this take me somewhere better or worse, faster or slower? Do I want to engage this new option? You can pass on and stick to your original plan or you can update your plan?" All of that is acceptable.

You have to continue to have that growth mindset. You can't have a fixed mindset and a plan. A fixed mindset and a plan are not necessarily fruitful but a growth mindset and a plan is putting yourself on rails to get to what you want. It's powerful.

Speaking of non-planned, I'm going to jump forward. This was all-around 2001. I'm going to jump forward to 2019. For many years, I had said to the program, "What we need to do is first write up some notes for our students." It's experiential. They're not seeing notetaking. They're doing. I try to get them to take some reflective notes afterward but it doesn't always work out. We should give them some notes because, with students at the end of the semester, everything is thrown out of their brains. I would forget everything the day I walked out of the final. That's pretty common.

I said, "Let's give them some notes and takeaways to help them remember this." We're teaching sophomores. They're going to need it later during their summer internship and when they graduate. I was also saying to MIT, "We pioneered online courseware." MIT was the first university to take our classes and put them online for free. It’s a wonderful initiative that led to edX.

I said, “Let’s take our class. I don’t know if we should put it online but let’s give it to other universities because we know these skills are not just for MIT students. Let’s share this." I always get answer’s like, “That’s a good idea," but neither initiative was taken. It has to do with internal things we were doing and resource allocation. Finally, in 2019, I spent a lot of time traveling for work. Lots of time sitting on planes, you can do some work but then you're cramped in the seat.

This is a good time for me to start writing up some notes. I'm going to write up notes for the students. I thought I was writing twenty pages of notes. I write it up and give it to them. The 20 pages became 40 and 40 became 80. Once it passed 100, I said, "I don't think these are a couple of notes. This might be a book." I called up my friend, Dorie Clark, one of the top business writers in the United States. I said, "Dory, can I take you to dinner? I'm writing a book. I could use some advice."

VCP 165 | Skills For Success

She was kind enough to join me for dinner. I realized, "I'm doing a book." How the book was born was from a conversation with my neighbor who has a marketing background. We were chatting one day and she said, "You should do an app for your book." I said, "That's a good idea. What should the app do?" "I don't know but you should do an app." It’s great advice. Next, she told me I should sell lots of copies. It’s a good idea. I put it on the to-do list. I sat there thinking, "What would an app be?"

In the old days, an app for a book was taking the PDF, wrapping it in an app and saying, "Here you go," but no one wanted that. If you want the electronic version, you get it on Kindle. What would you do? I thought through, I've worked in a lot of different industries, digital media, education and lots of other fields. I started pulling it together and I thought, "What we want to do is help people retain information." One of the techniques we know in education is spaced repetition.

That's a fancy name for a look back. When you've got a test in two weeks and read the chapter yesterday, between now and the test, review the chapter, take notes, create flashcards and go through them. Those are all standard techniques. It's looking at it more than once. That's what all-space repetition is. I thought," I've read lots of business books." You read a book and go, "That's great." You forget because who looks at the book again? I happen to take notes on my books but that's rare. I don't look back at them as much as I should. I thought, "We need something like flashcards so let me look. There are lots of flashcard apps. Let me go look." There were a bunch of flashcard apps out there.

The key thing though is no one is going to open an app and say, "I have to remember to open the app for that book. Let me look through it." The key thing that no one was doing was having push notifications. That's what we came up with and what we patented for the app. It's an app in which you get a daily push of the content. It's like a daily pop-up on your phone like a notification. Think of it as a daily affirmation but with one of the tips from the book. You need to open the app once a month so we know that you're active and we're not annoying you but that's it. You set the time and there's a reminder. You read it and go, "Good advice." Swipe, done. It’s two seconds a day but it helps you retain the information.

You can use it as you're about to go into a networking event. "What were those tips I read six months ago? Let me open it up and go networking. Tip numbers 1, 2 and 3. Let me walk in the room." This didn't exist. I thought I'd licensed it from someone who didn't exist so we filed the patent and built the app. Unexpectedly, I'd never thought I'd do a book, let alone an app. We realized, "I've got a background doing startup companies. If this helps me, who else can it help?" Those are other authors but other content creators in general. In 2022, we're spinning out the app in a universal way so other authors and content creators can use it to help their audiences better retain their content.

I love what you shared because there's something about that, which is to say, "What makes it uniquely you?" It's about looking at your past and saying, "What was it that led me to this point?" I never thought I could do this than you did. You looked at the experience of working in software, which you probably would have never gotten into but you did because you stumbled across that. There are a lot of these serendipitous moments but they all lead up to this place where you're leveraging all those things into what you're doing. It's powerful when you think about it in that context. Some of the things you end up doing, you wonder if it wasn't for those little chances, things and moments had not happened, you would not have ended up at the same place.

I'll share with you one other moment. This was probably around 2006. I was new to New York and didn't know a lot of people, the company I was at. Even the way I got to that company, there was a random chance meeting that led to introductions that got me there. At the company, one coworker said, "There's this guy who gets people together once a month." There’s a museum, The Rubin Museum, in New York that runs what’s called First Fridays. Lots of museums do this every first Friday of the month. They're open late and have cocktails. It's a social place. If you want to be social, meet people but not a bar. This guy was organizing a group. I went out there but I was in a bad mood. It had been a rough day. I wasn't feeling very social.

I wasn't talking to anyone. This guy says, "Mark, let me introduce you to someone." He walks me over to a couple of guys. I'm chatting with them for a bit. This woman, Olivia Fox Cabane, comes up to the group. She had talked to him before. She said," Gentlemen, I'm heading out. I want to say how nice it was to meet you." She shakes the hands of two people. She could've walked away at that point but instead, she turned to me. We had met. She said, "I'm sorry. I didn't get a chance to meet. My name is Olivia Fox Cabane. I hope we get to speak in the future." She then shook my hand.

She says, "You have a good handshake." She turned back to the second guy who did not and said, "Let me show you something about what he did." She's correcting his handshake and I'm looking at him and her thinking, "This is weird and forward." She sees that look on my face and says, "This is what I do for a living." Olivia's tagline at the time was The Charisma Coach. I said, "That's interesting. What exactly do you do?"

Taking different ideas from different fields really can help you understand problems better and come up with more opportunities and interesting solutions.  

In the class I was teaching at MIT, we would sometimes bring in an outside speaker to talk about basic networking skills focus on mechanics, things like proper handshakes and at a networking event, hold your glass in your left hand, not your right because the glass will tend to sweat, especially if it has ice in it. If it sweats on your right hand, your right hand starts to get wet. When you shake someone's hand, it's a little more awkward. Little subtle things like that.

I've seen people who teach this. I said, "Tell me more about what you do." Instead of leaving, she and I spoke for the next 40 minutes. I didn't know it at the time she had moved to the US from France. She describes me as her first American friend. We became very fast friends. Through Olivia, I got invited to Renaissance Weekend, which for those who don't know, it's not the Renaissance fairs.

I do like this too. It's more akin to a TED Talk or summit. This was the original of all of those. I've been going to that for many years. Through that, I have met amazing people, including many who have helped me with the book, inspired parts to it or helped me mechanically to get out there. That one little handshake changed my life.

I want to shift gears a little bit. What have you learned about yourself in the journey of becoming who you are that you haven't touched upon yet? We've touched up on a lot of different things about your path but what have we not talked about that you want to share?

I want to be explicit about it because if you go back to that ten-year-old kid who said, "I want to be a physicist," where I had this narrow focus and it's all about Math and Science, my EQ was not well-developed. I wasn't that interested in other fields. I like Math. History is interesting but I was less focused on Sociology, Government and English. Those were things I needed to know the basics but they're not going to help me be a better physicist. I had this very narrow view. That kid would never believe that I'm spending a significant time writing a book on these other skills. I was closer to a Sheldon Cooper back then, a very left-brain black and white. I would not believe who I am.

One thing I've learned is to have a diverse set of skills and knowledge. Some of that is not just about being the best programmer I can be. To become a CTO, I had to have these other skills, networking, leadership and negotiating. Developing those has made me more effective. This is true for all of us. Even if you say, "I want to be an individual contributor, not a manager or a senior person," even leadership, networking, negotiating and communication skills will help you be more effective in that role.

The other key thing that’s been implied in what we’re saying is to come up with things like the app. It was a combination. I'm a technologist. If I wasn't coming from tech startups and software, I wouldn't have thought about building an app but I did have experience in education and media. It's putting all these things together. It's why I don't just read books on technology or business skills. I'll read books on history and in other fields. I've read accounting books. They're not exactly exciting but I learned a little more about accounting. How do accountants think? Where do I want to apply some accounting thinking to what I'm doing? Taking lots of different ideas from lots of different fields has helped me understand problems better and come up with more opportunities and interesting solutions.

What you described is something I always talk about, collecting the dots so you can connect the dots. When you can take in a lot of information from a lot of different fields and have that curiosity across many even fields, it's great because then you can see how they interrelate or don't relate but know that they all can help you to solve problems in different ways. It's important to have that appetite for taking that information in. This has been such a great conversation. There were so many great stories you're sharing but we're going to flip to one last question I always ask. What are 1 or 2 books that had an impact on you and why?

It's hard to limit to a few. On my website, I list dozens of books that I have found the most useful but I'm going to name three. The first was Peopleware by Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister. It's normally about software. Read it, even if you have nothing to do with software. The premise is that most software projects fail but they fail not for technological reasons but sociological. It's not that the code is too complicated. It's that bad management, bad teamwork and bad communication. That's what helped me understand that it's not just technical problems I need to focus on.

VCP 165 | Skills For Success

The second is Olivia's book, The Charisma Myth, in which she teaches you how you can be charismatic. Charisma is a skill you can learn like golf, Accounting or anything else. Once I understood that, I realized all of these skills like networking and leadership. We can learn everything. These are not fixed or innate. Some of us are naturally better at golf but it doesn't mean the rest of us can't learn it. That was great for opening my eyes. The third one is Keith Ferrazzi's Never Eat Alone, in which he helped me understand that networking is a tool, how you can think about that tool and resource for solving all your problems. His view is, "Anytime there’s a problem, go to my network." That helped me see not just networking but other tools in different ways.

All three of them are such fantastic books. I haven't read Peopleware, but I'm going to pick it up because that sounds like an intriguing way to look at things and so helpful to have those recommendations. I like your take on it. As we’re coming to a close, I have first to say, thank you so much for sharing your stories and insights. I'm grateful. People are going to be taking so many great things from this conversation. I'm encouraging people to go out and grab your book because it's fantastic. I also want to make sure people know where to find you. Where's the best place that they can reach out to you to learn more?

You can go to my website, You can see where to buy the book, Amazon and other usual places. You can get in touch with me or follow me on social media. You can follow new content. I put out new articles every week. You can go to the app page, which will take you to the iPhone and Android stores, where you can download the free app. There's the resources page where there are other free resources for download or linking to free resources online. I list a number of the books, the three we mentioned, and several other books that I found useful in my journey and development. All of this can be found at

Thank you. Thanks, readers, for coming on the journey. This has been a great time to spend with all of you.

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About Mark Herschberg

VCP 165 | Skills For SuccessCurrently doing fractional CTO work as I market my book and speak at events but open to additional contract or returning to full time around the end of 2021 / start of 2022

Seasoned executive and cybersecurity expert who can bridge the divide between business and technology. I have started, grown, and fixed startup companies spanning 10 different verticals as well as helped two Fortune 500 companies with their internal startup initiatives, and helped create educational programs at MIT and HBS. I typically lead engineering, product, and data science.

I'm more likely to respond to a message than an invitation request from a stranger.

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