I've ridden the transition of computing technology from an elite practice to it's ubiquitous presence in everyday life. In 1979 I said from within a refrigerated room, "Email is cool but I've got no one to send to", and now, in the sunshine, we worry over whether we're getting inundated with too many messages from everyone. At that time there were no manuals, few gurus, no wikis and little source code of any kind. When a new disc drive was released, people had to write the code to get the disc into the operating system... Very hard to imagine or understand from today's perspective, but it taught me alot of large-scale social and technological transitions. And it's provided me with insight as technology innovation moves forward.
I've been leading in the innovation of computing technologies, and better ways to discover and build them. In the process, I've grown to take on more and more leadership responsibility ranging from running large teams, being the CIO or CTO, founding companies, helping with M&A, and assessing technology for investors and CEOs. Innovation comes from passion and creativity, and also from focus on the real-world problems our customers want to have addressed, and our need to build better, faster, and cheaper. The road isn't often smooth, but it's filled with considerable successes, innovations, and creativity. I've learned the importance of metrics, management styles, personality fits, teams behaviors, out and insourcing, open source participation, and so forth. I've been able to be on the front-end of most of he technology changes of the last 30 years, and I'm looking to do something more and ideally on somethings that matter.
I’m good at grasping the core of complex human processes and technology systems. I also tend to stay close to technology because that’s where my creativity and my credibility are most valuable. Because I understand both the engineering (science) and the human processes I think that I can deal with the intangible parts of projects. I am very much a believer that strong engineering and product staff sometimes need to be given the space, support, and metrics to focus on creating value within their organizations.
I'm aware of the differences and interplay between engineering mind, operational mind, and creative's mind. I understand the perspectives and pressures of marketing and sales, and the essential need to put the customer ahead of everything else. The complex dynamics on an organization, and the need to use the latest creative and organization experiments in order to improve are sensistivities I enjoy.
Frankly, early in my career the idea of “consulting” did not cross my mind. In one sense, I truly stumbled into the field. My interest in art actually was a catalyst. When I first got involved with computers and the Internet, you could literally draw a map of all the machines (computers) on the Net. I thought that I could be valuable within a company. In a relatively short period, I went from helping develop key parts of UNIX to building systems to teaching at Bell Labs.
Even when I’m consulting I see myself as part of the core management team, and my clients do so as well by involving me in their strategic efforts. When I finished a stint at Sonic Solutions we were literally applauded by the engineering organization – that’s pretty satisfying.
You can think of a project as a company artwork and my art background allows me to look at technology in a way that is both different and effective. You’ve got to know how to work the material: painting alone has a myriad of techniques let alone sculpture or performance, and you’ve also got all sorts of subtle motivations and psychological drama, along with the question of your audience is and how they’re going to react.
Without belaboring the metaphor, for a technology “artwork” to be successful, if you will, the elements range from monetization to market segments to usability and include all sorts of techniques in requirements, design, engineering and operations. You’ve got the team psychology and the drama of all the players. And the effect you’re generally after is a deep satisfaction of all the players, who become your ambassadors with customers, clients, suppliers and other employees. And you want to make money so you can do more.