Building a Foundation
I spent my early days in tech literally in the basement of one of the oldest buildings in Orange County, CA with the building's sewer pipe running through the closet in the corner. It was here I learned a wide range of technologies, from Cisco to Citrix, to my first MCSE. I built a new data center, learned how to punch down phone extensions, and how to backup an OpenVMS server.
This time was my introduction to corporate life, federal compliance and vendor relationships. I learned two very important lessons in the early years: 1) Technology changes constantly and I need to always be learning. 2) The most important key to success in technology is serving people. Successfully serving people is the key to success with anything except a solo ascent of Mt Everest. Understand their needs, which they don't even always understand themselves, and you will find success. These two lessons have been the foundation for my career.
Life of Learning
After cutting my teeth in a very typical corporate environment I followed a trusted friend into the world of consulting. The consulting group was such a great group of young men and women with such strong character, integrity, and commitment to success it was intoxicating. We were growing like crazy. We were constantly finding new ways to delight our customers, grow revenue, build new products, and have a ton of fun. We were all learning how to package, and repackage our IT services and consulting in new ways. It was here that I found my inner entrepreneur. We launched a spam filtering business, where I had the opportunity to run the partner and reseller program.
As with most things in life, there are seasons, and as we grew exponentially over the subsequent 5 years and all the challenges that comes with that rapid growth , it was clear that this particular season was coming to an end. I set out to establish a boutique technology consulting firm focused on coaching business leaders to enable them to better understand the business impact and value that can come with smart technology leadership. Anyone who has started their own business can imagine, it was a terrifying and thrilling time that led me to an opportunity to join an exciting startup with a group of gentlemen with such incredible experience ranging from venture capital, to Fortune 100 executives, to top tier management consulting. We had a great roadmap and while the market never got to see our full vision I learned about software development, use case analysis, and offshore resource management.
I was enjoying the startup life, but I was also missing the IT industry, and missing the broader reach of a bigger brand. As happens, funding become scarce and our run rate was catching up to us, so I was able to find a way back into the IT industry in a role that leveraged 10+ years in managed services, my software experience and my love for serving people. As Global Director of Social Media and Community for an rapid growth world class software company, it was thrilling to be charged with building the online social presence for a global company. This work included navigating the budding role of social media as a new frontier of the digital marketing landscape. I launched regional social personas as well as a user community which grew to win awards and model successful online customer support focused communities.
FINDING A STRIDE
Two of my strengths from the "Now Discover Your Strengths" test confirmed what I already knew. I loved to learn and gather data; INPUT, and I loved to make things better; MAXIMIZER. If you've been in the software world you'll recognize those strengths being very well suited to product management. Little did I know how much I would enjoy diving headfirst into running a product management team. People are a passion for me and to do product management well you must love to engage directly with people. Customers, developers, prospects, former customers, recent deciders, all of these folks have great data when you're building products. As I moved into leading this product management team there were many hurdles we faced, including a huge engineering bias towards only listening to the biggest customers, or to trying to build product to meet the whims of sales. I learned a lot (my Input strength loves this) and as most life experiences can do, I learned a great deal not only about the markets and customers we served, but I learned about organizational challenges and how to overcome them.
The next chapter in my professional life came as CIO for a select group of Orange County's finest small businesses. I felt honored to serve these businesses in impactful ways day in and day out. In the small business world, which is still largely misunderstood by the likes of Microsoft, Dell, Cisco and others, what they miss is how impactful each and every technology decision can be. When your business has 30 employees and 10% of them are in sales, but each is using a disconnected CRM, the impact of showing them how to better coordinate their efforts is significant and can be revolutionary for that business. If that 10% can improve efficiencies by just 25% it will change the financial outlook for that business quickly. This is the maximizer in me. Small changes can have huge impact.