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2017

One of my takeaways from this year’s Retail IT VAR of the Future Conference was to read The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur by Mike Michalowicz. The book was recommended to me by Erick Wilson, the President/CEO of TEC Works, a growing managed services provider in Florida. When I asked Erick what was the key to the success of his business, he said this book turned everything around for him.

 

The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur is one half inspirational, one half practical on how to build and grow your business on a shoestring budget. It’s also filled with all sorts of cringe-worthy bathroom humor, but I’ve spared you of that in my notes below. 

 

Following are 21 insightful quotes from the book that can be applied to ISV organizations:

 

  1. Have you ever been doing your business with your pants hugging your ankles and, when you are ready to wrap things up, noticed that you are extremely low on toilet paper? The best option is to manage with what you've got.
  2. When we literally have no option to just get up and walk away, we find a way to get the job done.
  3. It's awe-inspiring how careful, thoughtful, and innovative we are when our supplies are scarce.
  4. The real deal of successful entrepreneurship is bloated with failures, drenched with progress, marred with mistakes, and peppered with major achievements.
  5. Always bet on the individual who is serving his calling, not the guy who is doing it for the money.
  6. Passion begets persistence.
  7. Excuses are a great mechanism to apply logic to our fears.
  8. Early entrepreneurial success is defined by surviving, not thriving.
  9. Once you define your values, document them in a way that sings with your soul.
  10. Starting a company is all about serving your needs, your beliefs, and your values first.
  11. Know your prospects better than any of your competitors and you will have an easier time finding them. Recognize that by knowing one group so well, you will not know other groups at all.
  12. You have a “super strength” that no one else will ever match: you care more about your business than anyone else.
  13. Area of innovation: What is the area where you just can't be touched? What specifically do customers rave about when they talk about you? This is your area of innovation, and you must commit to leading in this area for the life of your business.
  14. The familiarity of repeating past actions, albeit unsuccessful ones, can seem much safer than moving decisively down an unexplored path.
  15. Entrepreneurs who adhere to life principles and constantly adapt to elusive business dynamics experience enormous, lasting success.
  16. Properly executing a process is all about doing it first, then planning for it. The first time through is often best served with less planning and more doing.
  17. The devil is in the details, but you will have a devil of a time getting anything done the first go around if you fixate on them.
  18. The more mistakes you make, the more progress you're making. Just don't repeat the same mistakes.
  19. Mistakes are good, successes are great, and idleness is a sin.
  20. A lack of resources forces you to use ingenuity, a skill that will help you stay ahead of the pack for your entire run.
  21. Ideas don't make money; effort does.

 

If you’d like to talk more about The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur and how to improve your ISV business, please reach out to me. My job as a Reseller & ISV Business Advisor for Vantiv’s PaymentsEdge Advisory Services is to work with Vantiv partners to help them with hiring right, developing staff professional development programs, improving customer service, and more.

 

 

For more On the Edge content, please visit the Vantiv Partner Advantage website.

 

Jim Roddy is a Reseller & ISV Business Advisor for Vantiv’s PaymentsEdge Advisory Services. He has been active in the POS channel since 1998, including 11 years as the President of Business Solutions Magazine, six years as a Retail Solutions Providers Association (RSPA) board member, and one term as RSPA Chairman of the Board. Jim is regularly requested to speak at industry conferences and he is author of the book Hire Like You Just Beat Cancer.

 

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Audrey Inniger is a campaign recruiting program specialist here at Vantiv. As college career fair season is about to kick off, I asked her what she loves about her job, and what advice she has for college students approaching recruiting tables at their college's job fair.

 

What’s your favorite thing about your job?

I love the variety; truly no day is the same! I experience the most variation in regards to the different groups with which I work. From current students to University career services to the business functions I support, there is a wide range of partners I encounter on a daily basis, who I am always learning from.

 

Also, I love the opportunity for growth throughout campus recruiting initiatives at Vantiv. As our campus recruiting programs are fairly young when compared to other organizations, this leaves room to experiment with new ideas in order to attract talent.

 

I know, I know – This is two favorites, but there is a lot to like about my role!

 

How did you get into HR?

Funny enough, I started my college career at Miami University (Go Redhawks!) believing I wanted to be a Speech Pathologist. After realizing the years of school required and the amount of tuition debt I’d accumulate, I stumbled upon an internship within Human Resources, as a Generalist. After my internship, I changed my major to Business Management & Leadership, with a focus in Human Resources. As I had several mentors from my first internship through Miami University, my mentors advised me to begin my Human Resources career within Talent Acquisition. I took their advice and began my fulltime career hiring in-house talent for a small PR and Marketing software company. Through this position, I was asked to build a campus recruiting program, which I enjoyed immensely.  In February 2016, I joined Vantiv and the rest is history!

 

What are some tips for college students or recent graduates looking to stand out at a job fair?

Showcase what makes you, YOU. The best and most memorable conversations I have are those in which the student talks about their passions, interests, and quirks. Enjoy skydiving? Have a passion for cooking international fare? Rap music enthusiast? Tell me about it! Highlighting those characteristics will make you most memorable at the career fair and will spark a more natural relaxed conversation.

 

Do you have any advice for college students or recent graduates on acing their first interview?

Do your homework, which includes homework on the company, on the people you are interviewing with, on the city where the role is located. LinkedIn should be your best friend!

 

Once you’ve done your homework, prepare thoughtful questions to ask the recruiter or hiring manager in which you are interviewing.

 

Can you do a little “myth-busting” on any career advice you’ve heard dispensed that is flat-out wrong?

“Accept the highest paying job offer.”

 

Money doesn’t buy happiness. Although salary is one factor to consider, also consider the company culture, your team (especially your direct manager), as well as career advancement opportunities.

 

Want to know when Vantiv will be recruiting at your college or university? Click here for a list of our upcoming career fairs.

To say that application architectures are evolving quickly is an understatement. In the age of cloud, mobile apps and back-end services can simply never go down.  Developers are increasingly turning to scalable, resilient micro-service architectures based on Docker containers as a preferred way of building applications.

 

Stats from the last DockerCon 2017 event in Austin shine a light on the pace of change.  Today there are more than 14M Docker hosts and more than 900K Docker apps.  In just the last three years there has been a 77,000% increase in Docker job listings and a 390,000% increase in Docker image pulls.  Payments are often a feature of cloud-delivered application services including mobile apps, online gaming, and new types of interactive voice-activated services.  As a result, developers of payment-enabled applications are getting swept up in this enormous shift.

 

The Case for containerized applications

Among the reasons that developers favor containers is that they promote modular design, code reuse, unit testing and lend predictability to application deployments.  If my application needs a database, key-value store, and a web-tier, rather than deploy hardware or a VM, I can simply pull Docker images of MariaDB, Redis or NGINX, add my application logic and publish my own derived Docker containers to my favorite registry. I can rapidly wire together these containers into an application comprised of multiple service tiers using a lightweight YAML (yet-another markup language) specification and publish a complex, multi-tier application to a containerized orchestration environment in seconds.  The explosion of interest Docker and containers has ushered in a revolution in how applications are built and deployed. Today there are dozens of container management platforms supporting these types of applications including Kubernetes, Docker Swarm, Amazon ECS, Azure Container Service, Google Container Engine, Mesos Marathon and more.

 

Payment applications pose unique challenges

In this brave new world, containerized services are ephemeral, can scale up and down dynamically, and are placed on Docker hosts based on run-time conditioners by sophisticated schedulers.  Application administrators often lack visibility to what VMs their services are executing on not to mention the cloud or physical host.  These environments pose unique challenges for both Docker users and assessors when it comes to PCI DSS compliance.  A discussion of securing Dockerized applications is too big a topic to address here, but a challenge that developers invariably face is how to securely make secrets like payment API credentials available to application logic inside a Docker container.

 

Enter Secret Management

This challenge of managing secrets is not unique to payments. Secret Management solutions have existed for years for Software Configuration Management (SCM) tools like Puppet, Chef, and Ansible.  What makes Secret Management challenging for containerized applications are issues of scale, the breadth of public cloud providers and the sheer rapidity with applications evolve.

 

To explain the issue, imagine we have a cloud-resident component in a Docker container that needs to call one of Vantiv’s end points on behalf of a merchant.  The challenge is how to get the credentials to the application securely.  The credentials can’t reside in the Docker image itself, or they would be visible to anyone, and all instances of the application would share the same credentials.  Similarly, they can’t reside in a YAML specification that is accessible to anyone on GitHub. We might have the idea of encrypting the credential and passing it to the container, but then the question becomes how do we distribute and protect the key needed to decrypt the payload holding the credential? If we attempt to pass the key across an encrypted channel, we still have the problem of passing additional keys needed to secure the channel. It’s a challenging problem. Dan Somerfield of ThoughtWorks describes this “bootstrapping” problem generically in his talk titled Turtles All the Way Down.  What’s needed is a secure way to pass payment credentials in a fashion that is cloud provider agnostic.

 

Securing Payment Credentials in Containerized Applications

Because Docker containers are all in the rage in cloud deployments right now, I wanted to look at this problem in the context of Docker.  As with so many areas of technology, there is not a single solution for secret management; there are literally dozens (partial list here).  In the world of container orchestration frameworks, however, industry consolidation is taking place and leaders are starting to emerge. Kubernetes (open-sourced by Google) is enjoying considerable enthusiasm followed by Docker Swarm, followed by the big cloud providers with their container management and secret management solutions. (Google’s GKE uses Kubernetes, formerly known as Google Borg). If you learn the approach used by Kubernetes, the good news is that you can address a large number of container orchestration frameworks and cloud services that use Kubernetes as their foundation (list here).

 

For developers or operations folks who want to get their feet wet with Kubernetes secret management, I’ve developed an end-to-end example showing how secret-management in Kubernetes can be used to pass payment credentials used by Vantiv’s eCommerce platform securely.  You can find this example in our Vantiv Labs area in Vantiv O.N.E.

 

If you’re interested in learning more about securely managing payment credentials in Kubernetes, check out the explanation and example here.  I’d love to get feedback and learn how developers are managing secrets in your applications.

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Lena Rutherford, intern extraordinaire, is a student at Miami University. This summer she interned at Vantiv's Denver office. I chatted with Lena about her internship here and what her plans are for her (bright!) future:

 

What are you studying in school, and what do you hope to do for your career?

I am majoring in Business Analytics and minoring in Arts Entrepreneurship. I love this combination because I am very balanced between my left and right brain. I hope this combination will give me the tools to measure ambiguous things through applying data analytics to value creation in the arts.

 

I want to have several careers, beginning with data analytics (perhaps in the technology consulting field), building into more strategic and creative roles that are infused with data, pivoting into starting my own company (or companies), and ending in venture capital. I hope that the skill sets I continue to develop in data analysis and business strategy will propel me to diverse roles and companies throughout the technology industry and the world.

 

What have you learned during your internship?

Coming from a startup last summer, Vantiv has taught me how corporations function and has given me a new appreciation for how standardization aligns diverse products and people. I have learned about the industry through PI planning, product meetings, and projects.

 

Creating a competitive analysis matrix for PayFac and researching industry verticals and horizontals for a strategy presentation deepened my industry knowledge through hands-on experience. More closely related to my major, I have learned about financial data through conducting a historical analysis of IP equipment data and by reconstructing financial models.

 

My internship has taught me as much about myself as it has about the business world – how I work best, how I form business relationships, and how to achieve work/life balance (despite a 45-minute commute). These are only a few things that I have learned, but there are many more things that I am grateful to my coworkers and this opportunity for teaching me.

 

What will you take with you from Vantiv?

Of course, I will take this experience and the professional relationships I've made with me. The subtle, everyday things I have done here have accumulated into this nebulous term, “experience.” I am thankful for what a rich and positive experience it has been and for how I will be able to build off of my experience wherever my career takes me next.

 

I have also formed great relationships with my coworkers and want to continue these relationships after my internship ends. I have greatly enjoyed getting to know the abundance of friendly people here at Vantiv and will miss seeing everyone daily.

 

We'll miss seeing Lena around the office, but we wish her all the best for this school year and beyond.

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Want to intern at Vantiv or just learn more about us? Vantiv will be at recruiting events at several colleges and universities this fall, including Miami University (so we can say hi to Lena). Come see us.

dourada

Seeing the Future of Payments

Posted by dourada Aug 17, 2017

When a new ThoughtWorks Technology Radar hits the press, we are always the first people to dig in and drink from the technology fire hose. If there is anything that could get a technologist to salivate it is the anticipation of new technology trends that the ThoughtWorks team noodles on.

 

However, looking back, we had never performed a deep dive and truly studied the content and ramifications in the radar. Well, that all changed a few months ago when our team wondered....."can we create a payments radar?" And if we could what would it look like? Wonder no more because it's here and is featured in the new release of VantivLabs on VantivONE or click the image below to be linked directly:

 

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Instead of completely rebuilding the radar from scratch we leveraged the ThoughtWorks team's categories where appropriate, but removed quite a few of the radar "blips" that did not seem to apply directly to the payments world. Our radar is based on the November 2016 version of the Thoughtworks Radar which you can view here. The result was three out of the four categories the ThoughtWorks team used: Techniques, Tools, and Platforms. We then included a fourth category that fit the payments world like a glove: Fintech. The one category we removed was Languages & Frameworks. Many of those blips are utilized in the payments world but we found the other categories had a much larger impact on teams that develop and deliver payment applications and also wanted to leave a bit of room for our own submissions under Fintech.

 

We also leveraged the fabulous radar open source software created by the ThoughtWorks team located here. There is also an excellent blog post and podcast on the whole concept of building a radar here. If you have not figured it out by now we have a little bit of a technology crush on the ThoughtWorks team and will forever thank them for the infrastructure and insight that pushed us on what we are calling the Tech Vitality path. We hope our version of the radar will help everyone that reads it inject some vitality into their business by looking towards the future of technology. A quick mention: have a read through the 'personal technology radar' in the above-mentioned blog post. It's a great way to think about your technology career path.

 

Our radar is a bit different from the github repo linked above. You can find our modified repository here. It is not much different from the ThoughtWorks repo but we did not want to store our data in a google spreadsheet and instead wanted to serve it up directly via html and javascript. Because we had to pass this content around internally multiple times we leveraged an excel spreadsheet and then utilized a macro to generate the blip javascript content. All of that javascript content was then pasted directly into one of the .js files and served directly from that location. You can read all about it on the readme page in the github repo. If you ever have questions/comments please do not hesitate to contact us. In addition, please feel free to fork our repo and build your own, it's an excellent project to undertake and will take you on a wonderful tour of many different technologies.

 

What did we find most interesting and what were our reactions:

 

  • Wow, the amount of content is huge...and we only published one. The ThoughtWorks team appears to publish multiple versions of this over many years. It's truly incredible.
  • Software fundamentals are still the same in product delivery but the whole continuous delivery paradigm has changed the world in a profound way. This is especially intriguing in the payments world where delivering value quickly is of the utmost importance.
  • IndiaStack is one of the most interesting concepts and reminds us that at times we need to pull ourselves out of the places we live and look around at what the rest of the world is doing. Collaboration is such a wonderful thing and often as technologists, we get so focused on the problems at hand that we miss the forest for the trees.
  • The Physical Web -- this is also an intriguing subject that we hope to explore in more detail soon. While not targeted specifically at the payment industry, there is so much overlap it beckons us.
  • Slight Embarrassment -- how have we not heard of some of these technologies? Tempered with the truth that it is incredibly difficult to know everything. What an incredible world we live in that allows us to immediately communicate with one another, transact in multiple currencies, pay for an item with a phone, and then write about it and share it with all of our Vantiv friends and partners. An incredible world indeed!

 

Please feel free to contact us and/or provide comments directly within the Tech Vitality site.  We welcome your feedback and would enjoy collaborating on future versions of the Tech Vitality site.

I just returned from RetailNOW 2017, held Aug. 6-9 at Paris Las Vegas, and one of the words being thrown around the expo floor was “disruption.” Traditional point of sale resellers and ISVs are concerned about cloud POS, payment security requirements, and new entrants disrupting their current business model. With that as a background, I think it’s timely to review the lessons shared by author/serial entrepreneur Jay Samit in his book Disrupt You!

 

Before we dive into specific quotes, let’s look at the book’s subtitle: “Seize Opportunity and Thrive in the Era of Endless Innovation.” Disrupt You! turns around the concept of disruption, imploring business leaders to play offense and use disruption to reshape their business before the world morphs into a place where your value proposition is irrelevant.

 

I mentioned Disrupt You! during my RetailNOW presentation “18 Ways Leading POS Resellers Provide Superior Value To Their Merchants” because endless innovation is the key to offering superior value. Following are 36 insightful quotes from the book that can be applied to ISV organizations:

 

  1. To stay relevant, you must keep your career in permanent beta. That means committing to a lifetime of learning and professional growth, a lifetime of strategic adaptation.
  2. Every successful disruptor must be willing to destroy their concepts and pivot their energies before the market can render their business obsolete.
  3. A technology or product is disruptive when it creates an entirely new market, consumer base, or user and destroys or displaces the market for the technology it replaced. Email disrupted postal mail, Wikipedia disrupted the traditional multivolume bound encyclopedia.
  4. Being successful as a disruptor is about applying your unique experience and viewpoint to find opportunity.
  5. This success was not the result of my having invented a new technology. Instead, I used an existing technology to disrupt a different business.
  6. An “intrapreneur” disrupts from within the corporation, rather than waiting for the company to be attacked by external forces.
  7. Incremental innovation is like walking on quicksand: it will keep you very busy but won’t get you very far.
  8. Self-disruption is akin to undergoing major surgery, but you are the one holding the scalpel.
  9. By visualizing each step of your journey, you’re actually getting your mind prepared to handle the opportunity.
  10. Our lives and careers are determined by our acceptance or rejection of our perceived limitations.
  11. The most successful people have the same 24 hours in a day that you do. The only difference is that they take control of their time. What daily indulgences might you be willing to give up in pursuit of your dreams? 
  12. So much of self-disruption is making deliberate choices in your life instead of running on autopilot.
  13. “It’s always your fault, because if you wanted to change, you’re the one who has got to change.”
  14. “Map out your future – but do it in pencil.”
  15. You can’t achieve dreams you don’t have.
  16. The adage that the master appears when the student is ready to learn is true only if you make the effort to seek out advice.
  17. Great big dinosaurs will always be too busy competing against other big dinosaurs to pay attention to the disruptor.
  18. You don’t have to know where the road ends to start on your journey. You just have to know the direction in which you want to travel.
  19. The customer will always find a way to get what he wants, even if the traditional supplier won’t comply.
  20. Be fearless when you know survival is at stake. Anything less is corporate suicide. Disrupt or be disrupted. There is no middle ground.
  21. It is not incumbent on the world to conform to your vision of change. It is up to you to explain the future in terms that those living in the past and present can follow.
  22. The faster you can kill the bad ideas, the quicker you can pivot to the successful one. When you finally find the one idea that can’t be killed, go with it.
  23. Disruptors are simply problem solvers.
  24. Problems are just businesses waiting for the right entrepreneur to unlock the value.
  25. Test, verify, and adjust is the only way to stay on course. Data has no ego and makes an excellent copilot.
  26. Pivoting before going broke is the cardinal rule for startup survival.
  27. Data is the most rational and productive member of any startup team. Invite data to as many planning meetings as you can. Data may disappoint, but it never lies.
  28. Just as Jesus had his apostles, you need to find a dozen consumers who are in your target demographic and bounce your ideas off them.
  29. Most startup failures result from entrepreneurs who are better at making excuses than products.
  30. Disruptors don’t have to discover something new; they just have to discover a practical use for new discoveries.
  31. No amount of capital can buy a long-term competitive advantage. “The only sustainable competitive advantage is an organization’s ability to learn faster than the competition.”
  32. Customer service should be thought of as marketing, because it influences how customers feel about your company.
  33. My theory was that by having all of our team in the position of speaking directly with our customers, we would build better software.
  34. “True disruption means threatening your existing product line and your past investments. Breakthrough products disrupt current lines of businesses.”
  35. History doesn’t remember those who maintained the status quo.
  36. No obstacle is so big that one person with determination can’t make a difference.

 

If you’d like to talk more about Disrupt You! and how to improve your ISV business, please reach out to me. My job as a Reseller & ISV Business Advisor for Vantiv’s PaymentsEdge Advisory Services is to work with Vantiv partners to help them with hiring right, developing staff professional development programs, improving customer service, and more.

 

 

For more On the Edge content, please visit the Vantiv Partner Advantage website.

 

Jim Roddy is a Reseller & ISV Business Advisor for Vantiv’s PaymentsEdge Advisory Services. He has been active in the POS channel since 1998, including 11 years as the President of Business Solutions Magazine, six years as a Retail Solutions Providers Association (RSPA) board member, and one term as RSPA Chairman of the Board. Jim is regularly requested to speak at industry conferences and he is author of the book Hire Like You Just Beat Cancer.