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The second biggest purchase most of us will make is a car. Many people finance that purchase through the dealer, which means knowing the ins and outs of the car finance industry is important. Joining us to share her insider knowledge is Sonia Steinway of Outside Financial, of which she is the co-founder and president.  On this episode with her, we go deep into car dealerships and the process of car buying, and how to know what you are signing when you agree to a car loan. Listen in for those topics and more on today’s CTO Studio.
Two critical components in a start-up or any business are creating culture and productivity with your team. Joining us to share their experiences and sagacity is a roundtable of CTOs from the tech field: Robert Swisher of biproxi, Brant Cooper of Moves The Needle and Michael Young, technology management consultant. Today we talk about engineering culture, product management, and KPIs. We also discuss the crucial question: how do you measure productivity? While no one has the final, definitive answer, everyone weighs in with perceptive knowledge. Join us to hear it on this edition of CTO Studio.
One of the hottest topics in tech right now is our focus for today: the present and the future of data science.   On this episode of CTO Studio, you’ll hear data science downloads from Christopher Keown who runs a local machine learning data science meetup in San Diego. You’ll also hear insights from Robert Swisher, who is the CTO of biproxi and Alex Balazs, the chief architect at Intuit. We specifically discuss when you should be adding data scientists to your team, how the role of engineering in the data science environment of today, and why data science is actually very personal and very local. Join us for those discussions on episode 61 of CTO Studio! Chris Keown Chris Keown’s San Diego Machine Learning group Kaggle biproxi Robert Swisher on LinkedIn Alex Balazs’ blog at Intuit Alex Balazs on LinkedIn Alex on CTO Studio
Are PR and positive publicity in tech two different things? Brian Jones will answer that question and more today. Brian is the CEO of Nuts and Bolts of PR and he is the master of all things positive messaging. He also happens to be one of our guests on this episode of CTO Studio. Our other guests are Alan Leard, the CEO and founder of Limelight Health and Alex Balazs, the Chief Architect at Intuit. The four of us discuss what PR is and isn’t, and if it’s different from positive messaging and positive publicity. We also talk about what makes a good conference good and a bad conference bad. We cover a lot of ground in this episode so get ready to join us on today’s CTO Studio. For more, check out
We try a brand new format this week with a group discussion.  Debbie Chen, PhD sits with a few geeks and talks about her mission to measure hydration in elite athletes. Check out: Also, find your peer group of CTOs:  
There’s a misconception that people in tech aren’t big on networking and connecting socially. Our guest today has busted that myth and shows us the power of community building with CTOs. Dr. Tony Karrer is one of the founders of the Los Angeles CTO Forum, and is also an inspiration to me. He’s built multiple start-ups, is currently the CTO of several companies and holds a doctorate from USC. Listen in to hear his wisdom on the topics of community building, scaling up and scaling down and much more on today’s CTO Studio. In this episode, you’ll hear: What is a fractional CTO? What lesson did he learn from scaling in the dot com era? When do you know if you need a CTO? Is there a way to ensure you find the right advisors? How do you know if a CTO is a first class citizen of their C suite? And so much more! We begin today with Tony telling us how did the LA CTO forum came to fruition. There is a small group of people who founded it over a decade ago. Back when InfoWorld was running a national conference for CTOs and creating local CTO groups. Doing so inspired a group of people - Tony included - to form their own local CTO group in the LA area. Originally there were 8 of them, and they would gather together to talk about their problems and get ideas from each other. Their original group met in 2001, and they've been growing ever since. In fact, they still help each other today. Tony tells us about how someone from within the group helped him deal with the recent GDPR updates. We also talk about the ebb and flow of this group and how he decided to stick with this idea for so long. Of course, the core reason is that it provides to him tremendous value in return. While the group ebbs and flows, its core is always there and always strong. Staying in that core group doesn't feel like it's a chore for him: it's a great group of people who provide incredible value to each other and to the larger ecosystem. And that commitment has paid off, they are a well-known group in and around Los Angeles. They’ve become so big they have also expanded to neighboring areas like Santa Barbara, Pasadena and Orange County. Our next topic is TechEmpower: Tony was a CTO at two start-ups in the 90s and TechEmpower came out of those experiences. He would get excited about the strategy and how the company should leverage technology.  In both instances, he realized once things got going with the company there wasn't a whole lot of strategy left to execute.  Instead, it became all about coding. He knew he was passionate about the strategy and wanted to do more of that, so he wondered how to make that happen.  It was the tech boom at the time and everyone wanted to have a start-up. So he opted to do three of these at a time, and he quickly realized his next problem: he needed people to help him build those three start-ups and everything that went along with them. Soon he had tapped out his pipeline of people, and was soon faced with the formidable task of hiring the right people. It seemed like a natural solution to build up a staff of his own. He was teaching Computer Science at Loyola Marymount University (LMU) all during this experience, As a teacher, his former students and currently graduating students were a natural resource. From there TechEmpower was born. In its earliest days, TechEmpower was run out of a lab at Loyola Marymount.. Before long there were 10 people working at LMU's lab. This was during the summer so when the department head saw so many students working in the lab, he asked Tony what they were doing. Tony told him the truth, explaining he had provided them with some work experience opportunities. The department head took it in stride, but a week later a memo was issued saying no commercial enterprises were allowed in the labs at LMU!  Tony followed the new rule, moved the group off campus into their own space and continued growing the company. Today TechEmpower does CTO consulting, architecture consulting, due diligence, tech reviews, and the like.  Also on today's episode we talk about his other company, Aggregage and their CTO Universe. You'll also hear the top 5 CTO concerns from his community and the San Diego CTO community, plus much more on this edition of CTO Studio!
Technology and the internet go hand in hand, as does the innovation both engender. Nowhere is this more apparent than with Nativo’s CTO Oded Cohen. He joins the CTO Studio to tell us what it is like to be innovating as a CTO in online advertising today. We’ll also talk about why he’s a startup guy at heart, how Nativo continues to innovate their offerings while also building and scaling their teams. This is an in-depth talk about the world of online advertising, and how innovation from that world applies to every industry within tech today. Join us to hear it all on this episode of CTO Studio.   In this episode, you’ll hear: What does it mean to be a "startup guy"? What's the difference between native advertising and banner ads? Why advertising is still effective. Does the paid wall approach work for all publishers? What is the dirty secret of cloud storage? And so much more! Today Oded Cohen is the CTO of Nativo and is based in Los Angeles, but he is originally from Israel. He was working in an Israeli start up that went public, after which they were acquired by an American company. A few months later he was offered a job in Dallas in a more corporate setting. He took the job and moved his family to Dallas, but it didn’t take long for him to realize he is a start-up guy at heart. What does he mean exactly when he says he is a startup guy? Oded explains he likes the excitement and fast-moving environment in which he can have a meaningful impact and embrace challenges. In bigger companies you often have to get approval for more things and you have to plan things out or execute on someone else's plan. So with that realization he moved on about a year later and after exploring some options, he found Nativo and felt it was a good fit. He and his family moved to L.A where he joined Nativo as Senior Vice-President of Engineering. Today, he is the CTO. When he joined there was no product, no marketing but there was an operations and there was sales. The engineering team was 7 people and everyone was doing multiple things. I asked him to expand on the sales aspect of what they were doing at the time - were they a consulting agency?  Their business has two sides: one side is the publishers. They provide technology to publishers to help them monetize their site using native advertising (which is how they got their name, Nativo). The other side is the advertisers (brands). So their sales team goes directly after advertisers to get them to run native campaigns across all sites that embrace their technology. Their platform also act as a supply side platform (SSP), which allows publishers to auction their inventory in real time and serve the highest paying ad onto their site, maximizing the yield for the publishers. The idea behind native advertising (versus display banners) is to provide a better user experience for site readers by adopting the characteristics of the rest of site, or in other words being more “native to the site”. That means if you go to a particular site looking to read articles in a specific topic, you will be shown ads on similar topics, with a headline and an image promoting sponsored articles (or videos) When you actually click on the sponsored content ad, you read the article on the same site (whereas banners will send you to some other site). With their sponsored content you stay on your original site giving you a true full native experience. We then move on to to talk about what it's been like to be the CTO of Nativo and his teams there. Going from SVP of Engineering to CTO hasn't been much of a change, according to Oded. He's now managing 40 people and working very closely with the VP of product and his team. He's still a technical guy so he'll sometimes get involved in the coding. He might be even deploy some of the code himself, as they are moving more towards teams deploying their own code. In general, he doesn't do a lot of coding but he is highly involved in a lot of the technical architecture decisions. On this episode of CTO, Oded gives more details on other information they track and where ad tech is going today. Next we talk about how they are innovating in this space. One of the interesting things he has learned is that when you come up with a good idea then you build it and bring it to market first. You get good adoption and at some point the market reacts and the followers come in (some big, some small). Then it becomes a competition. If you stay in that situation you won't continue to grow as a company, eventually you will just be one among many. The challenge is that what you brought to market first was your core as a company and it's very hard to suddenly put effort into investing in a new path for your company. It's like you have to have a mini-start up within your own company. What he has learned is you have to make those decisions, otherwise the growth will disappear and your company will die out. This concept is an understanding at the core of Nativo’s CEO and the company itself, and it’s one of the things he likes most about working there. He goes on to tell us how they've done this in the last year and a half, how they are building and scaling and how he ensures they aren't missing the next big challenges and trends in the industry. You’ll hear those topics and more when you tune in to today’s edition of CTO Studio with Oded Cohen.
We’ve seen the disruption of many markets in the last decade, so is healthcare next? It is and that disruption is already underway, according to our guest Unmesh Srivastava. Unmesh is the CTO of P3 Health Partners, and he’s been in the healthcare industry for over a decade so he knows where the industry has been, and where it is going in the future. On this episode, we talk about his journey to becoming a CTO in the healthcare industry, what we can learn from even the most humble of jobs, and why he doesn’t see his tech team as different from the other teams in his organization. Join us for those topics and more on today’s CTO Studio. In this episode, you’ll hear: What is the currency you have to spend to build connection? Why is connection the key to earning respect from your team? How sales applies to every aspect of your organization. What's a problem he often sees with technologists and tech leaders? How do you build a team so your developers so they have a balance of business knowledge and development and coding? And so much more! Unmesh left India for the States in 2008 to pursue a Masters of Science in Engineering Management at Cal-State Northridge. His undergraduate degree is in electronics and communication engineering, but he's always been a people person and enjoyed the managing people aspect of projects. 2008 was the peak of the recession and no one was hiring, it was very different than how he imagined it would be! But he learned a lot as a result. His first campus job was being a cashier at Burger King, not a job he was entirely happy to have.  Looking back he says it shaped him a lot. Now he sees the value in it: he had to talk to all different nationalities of people, and he learned the art of selling even though he was not incentivized to do that. And the concept applies today whether you are working in a multi-billion dollar enterprise or a mom and pop shop: how can you sell your services and have the most positive impact on the organization you are working for? This applies not just on the front line of the actual sale, but down to the way your team is built and managed, and how your product and/or service is built so your entire organization is sustained long-term. He shares how he's developed this, but the foundation was there from the way he was raised in his family (especially from his mother). Also on today's CTO Studio, Unmesh continues this story by sharing why he saw graduating during a recession as an opportunity when a lot of other graduate students were delaying going out into the workforce.  With six months to go before graduation, he left Burger King and the tutoring he was also doing to completely focused on preparing for interviews. And after that preparation, he got a call from a management firm for an interview. He met with them, had a great interview and started working with them as a solutions consultant on their Kaiser Permanente account. That's how he got started in healthcare and how he realized this was the industry he wanted to work in. For almost the next three years he was at Kaiser, a role he loved. His team was devoted to the next generation of products and builds for Kaiser, which was an amazing experience because Kaiser is one of the most innovative healthcare delivery systems in the world. From there he went to Toyota (still as part of the management consulting firm he was hired by after graduation), where he learned everything about business process management. He learned how to use Six Sigma and use process mapping to solve problems. Even though he loved what he was learning with Toyota, he realized his passion was in healthcare. So he moved to North American Medical Management, which is part of Optumcare. He was with them for 6 years until very recently deciding to move to a smaller organization where he could work at the grassroots level. Today he is with P3 Health Partners as their Chief Technology Officer. Next, we segue into discussing how his teams are divided up, where they are focusing their future efforts in the healthcare realm, and why healthcare is at the cusp of being disrupted. Join us to hear that and more on today's CTO Studio.
It's no small feat to go from the second developer in a company to its CTO, but one man who is up to the task is Jesus Lizama of Studio 3. Jesus is joining the CTO Studio to talk about his career progression, as well as what it's been like to live here as a DACA recipient. Jesus is an engineer who has become CTO of Studio 3, a rapidly growing agency. In fact, his agency is growing so fast they are doubling their revenues every year! They are now a two-time Inc. 5000 company. Today you'll also hear about how he is managing his team through this tremendous growth and what he's learned along the way. Plus he has a very special story to share on the topic of immigration and DACA. Listen in for that and more on this edition of CTO Studio.  In this episode, you’ll hear:  How has being CTO changed things for him? Does he still see himself as a developer? Where did he had to grow the most after becoming CTO? Why does his team choose their own tools? How did switching to Slack and Airtable help his team? And so much more! We begin our conversation with a discussion about Studio 3: Studio 3 is a all-encompassing marketing company. They specialize in digital marketing, but also do print, and other media. If you have an idea and you bring it to them they can give you a product. Prior to joining the agency, he was going to college and was working at the university as a math mentor. He was on break and he wanted to start programming. He went out on Christmas Eve and decided to try to get a job in the field. He sent out a bunch of resumes through Craigslist and that is how he landed at Studio 3! Right away they threw him into a project and had him build a web site. He started at a time before mobile responsiveness was really big, but he had them build for that and he changed a few other technologies he knew would be helpful. After a year or so he became lead developer and the company kept growing. The company now employees sixty employees, ten of which are engineers. What about becoming CTO - how did that transpire? It all started during a meeting he had with HR, the person he was meeting with asked him where he saw himself in five years. He replied honestly telling her he saw himself as CTO of this company in 5 years. It turns out the CEO of the company at the time was thinking the same thing. The CEO took him to lunch a week later and he told Jesus he wanted to make him CTO. A few months later he became CTO. He says now that he is CTO it hasn't changed much for him, hierarchies are non-existent to him. The main difference is now he is involved in the company's strategy, and that is something he is still learning about. What about his nomination for 2018 CTO of the year by the Los Angeles Business Journal - has that changed anything for him? It was amazing, he says he felt like he didn't belong! He was among big name CTOs: the CTO of the LA Clippers, Los Angeles' CTO, Playboy's CTO, Verizon's CTO and Disney's CTO, etc. At the dinner for the nominees he sat at a table with LA's CTO and he had a great conversation with the Clippers' CTO. He was nominated again for 2019! Also on today’s CTO Studio, we dig into his actual experiences as CTO a bit more, I asked him to share the first obstacle he had while CTO.  One of the first tasks he was given was to build a reporting platform. His background is primarily building web sites, which were mainly static or perhaps had a few business logic components involved but not too many. A reporting platform on the other hand is a full-on MVC application!   In addition to being the CTO, he was also a developer so there were a lot of technologies he had to grasp very quickly so he could build an MVP. After many iterations and a year later, they finally had a working system  that was useful for the company. Changing directions a bit, we talk about how his mom came to the United States and why she left Guadalajara. We talk about the realities of being stopped at border crossings and traveling through the airports as immigrants, and how DACA has shaped him and what most people misunderstand about the legalities of becoming a citizen via DACA.   We wrap up with his thoughts on the tech scene in LA and how he's seeking a community there. Join us for those topics and more on today's CTO Studio.
If you were considering joining a start-up as their CTO would you have a formula to evaluate its potential? Our guest on today’s CTO Studio does and it stems from his years as a CTO, an advisor and mentor in the field. Sergey Sundukovskiy is the CTO, CPO, co-founder of Raken. He's also a mentor, advisor and father of three.  Sergey and I have a great conversation about the formula for evaluating start ups and how to manage and keep healthy development teams. Join us as we dive into those subjects and more on this episode of CTO Studio.  In this episode, you’ll hear: What is the benefit of being both CTO and CPO (Chief Product Officer)? What are the two sources for ideas? How has their product changed since its inception? Why compromise doesn't always work to solve disagreements. Should all CTOs mentor? And so much more!  We start with a discussion about Raken: what it is and who it serves. Raken is a field management solution. They serve the construction industry by helping supervisors and job foremen keep track of what is going on on the construction site. So often the people in charge realize there is a problem when the job is running behind schedule and off track, Raken helps avoid that scenario. Raken helps construction companies to keep the construction projects on time and on target through daily documentation and labor/project insights, as well as serving as a Worker Time Management app for payroll purposes. Sergey explains what it does in more detail: If you have ever been on a job construction site you know jobs are broken down into roughly 3 separate buckets. Prep time is one bucket, the second bucket is the actual build stage of the project and the last bucket is the transition stage when you are completing the project.  They primarily serve the building stage and the transition stage. In the building phase you need to be sure you are on time and things don't need to be adjusted. Basically Raken is project management software for the construction industry projects focused on field management tools. Normally, construction projects are driven by the management office in the office/field trailer and then what happens on the job site. The project gets conceived in the office and planned in the office. Raken's approach is to service the field. They serve the field workers so the field workers can keep track of activities, and to do so in a simple and easy-to-use manner. Raken helps Superintendents to document what is being done as it is being done, rather than having two hours they would normally have to use at the end of the day to make note of the progress on the job. Sergey says they are staying focused on the construction industry and not branching out right now. I was curious to know how Raken came about - where and how did he get the idea? He was a late stage co-founder for the company so the idea wasn't his. But in general ideas come from two different sources. The first is industry insiders who have been working in their field forever and eventually start their own business to do a particular thing in a better way. The second source is industry outsiders who see a better way to do something that others haven't seen. Their co-founder, Kyle, fell into the second category: he decided to create Raken after recognizing that the construction industry lacked a reporting tech solution that could alleviate major pain points. So Kyle set out to fix that with Raken. As a CTO with a rich history in software development, management leadership and previous CTO roles, how did Sergey know he wanted to join Raken?  He met Kyle about a year into his 2-year earnout from his previous company. At that point, Sergey knew he wanted to join another start up. He knew he had three choices: he could form his own start up, join an existing one or stay with a corporate job.  He had a specific approach to evaluating opportunities, and it is based on his experiences as a mentor and advisor through incubators and accelerators. His system is more like that of an investor and it examines three areas: Look at the idea. Look at the market. Look at the people involved in the company. Raken checked all three boxes for him. Next we talk about how Raken has changed before discussing the viral component of the app. How did they use it to bring in subcontractors? It's about realizing how the market is broken down. If you look at the market itself there are about 21% of the general contractors and 79% of the subcontractors - and that is exactly how it breaks out on job sites. 20% of the work is done by general contractors and 80% is done by subcontractors/someone else. From the decision-making point of view, general contractors typically makes a decision in terms of software used to track the project. But they also have lots of subcontractors and these subcontractors if they like the software on one job they are going to take it and recommend it to other future job supervisors and general contractors. And that is the viral component: subcontractors are required to use Raken by one general contractor, they like the experience and then recommend it to future general contractors on new job sites. Raken saw linear growth of general contractors using their app, and exponential growth by subcontractors.  We transition into Sergey telling us how they keep harmony when they disagree, his company PushPoint which was sold to CapitolOne, why it's important to be physically and mentally fit in order to run a successful business. And we wrap up with his thoughts on the SoCal tech scene. Listen in to hear our take on those topics and more on today's CTO Studio.
Have you ever found yourself working on a side project because you thought you had to and not because you wanted to? Our guest for this episode of CTO Studio has and he also found out why it’s okay not to finish that side project. Evan Phoenix is the lead engineer on the private Terraform enterprise  at Hashi Corp, and the Director of Ruby Central. He’s also been a CEO of a start up and regularly finds time to try out side gigs of his own. Today he tells us how he carves out the time for fun engineering projects and why sometimes it’s okay not to finish those side projects. You’ll hear from Evan on those topics and more on today’s CTO Studio. In this episode, you’ll hear: Is it okay to do something even if you think you are not the right person for the job? Why everything we do doesn't have to become a business. What is the "for market" challenge? Why does he prefer Go over Rust and C++? How to put the fun back in your side projects. And so much more!   We start off by talking about Evan's scariest childhood movie and how we met at a Ruby conference and became friends. Then we segue into talking about his current role at Hashi Corp: he is the lead engineer on the private Terraform enterprise. He came to that position via his previous start up, Vectra. Vectra eventually became a logging SaaS and Evan and his team worked to build it for 8 or 9 months before their financial runway was depleted. At that point, Evan had to figure out what to do next.  After struggling with the decision, Evan realized he didn't like being a CEO and so they decided to close Vectra. Along the way, he and his team had been talking to Hashi Corp about what they were doing. When Vectra closed Hashi Corp invited them to come over and work there. For Evan it was the best case scenario. He didn't like being a CEO, but he liked working on interesting problems and have some say in what he worked on. Hashi Corp is the perfect place that allows him to do both. I was curious when he first thought of being the founder of his own company, and why that interested him. Evan explains he wanted what he thinks every founder thinks they are getting when they start their own company: control to do whatever they want to do. They make all the decisions. If they don't want to do something then they don't do it, and vice versa. But the reality changes when the business involves more than just you or you and another person. If you take on investors you no longer have complete control. In Evan's case his family and friends invested in his business so not your typical investors, but he was still aware of risking other people's money. And that awareness changed and altered his own risk tolerance. So now he gets to enjoy his work at Hashi Corp and have fun projects on the side. He says he start a new project every couple of weeks and he does it for him. We go on to talk about engineering simply for the sake of enjoyment, before we discuss his time at Living Social and Splice. We also talk about how he manages his time as a family man with a wife and two daughters: when does he work on his personal projects? He tries to be kind to himself and he works on them when he has the time. In the past, he would've beaten himself up for not getting more done on something, but now he doesn't. Instead, he talks to his wife and tells her he wants to work on something. She tells him she wants to do her own thing and then they do their own thing in the evenings. On the weekends his daughters still have nap times so when they nap he works on his projects. But sometimes he uses those two hours to watch a TV show or do something - and he is now kind to himself about it and just does what he wants. If he wants to work on his project then he does; if he wants to watch Netflix then he does. We then talk about what he is seeing at Ruby conferences for 2018 and 2019. He says at every conference they ask the audience to show their hands if this is their first time in attendance, and typically about half of the crowd raise their hands. So every year about half of the people are going to their first Ruby or Rails conference. And there's a core group that goes to all the conferences and has since the beginning. They make up about 20% of the attendees. Their Ruby conference is around 800 people and the Rails conference is about 1200. They have found about 30% of people return after their first time attending one of the conferences. Since he's been doing these two conferences for so long, does he continue because these are his people? Yes, it's really about community far more than the actual technical stuff now. He cut all of his professional chops in the Ruby community so he has tons of friends from there. He goes to the conferences to see them and hang out with them. He knows this is true for other people, so it's important that the conferences he puts on create an environment that welcomes people and keeps them connected to their friends in the community. As a conference organizer, it's important to remember that every session doesn't have to be something you've never done before. They try to ensure their space is conducive to hanging out. And there are at least a few sessions he would be interested in because he understands he represents a weird slice of the Ruby and Rails community having been to so many conferences. Evan knows if he is interested in a topic then those talks should appeal to at least some of the people in attendance, too. We wander back to talking about Hashi Corp and finish our chat with Evan telling us what Terraform is, when to explore using Terraform and where infrastructure as a service is going in the future. Listen in for those conversation topics and more on this edition of CTO Studio!
There’s a lot happening in the world of cloud services today and Jonathan LaCour of Mission is here to tell us all about it. Jonathan is CTO of Mission, a managed cloud consulting service based in Los Angeles. On today’s episode of CTO Studio, Jonathan and I talk about all the issues related to cloud and cloud migration and owning your own data. Be sure to listen in to this fascinating conversation on today's CTO Studio.  In this episode, you’ll hear: Why doesn't it work to just throw people at a problem? Why the CTO and the product team ultimately have the same goal. What is the most difficult thing for most technologists? What is the #1 most important value a CTO can hold? What do people ultimately value? And so much more! Mission helped sponsor our first CTO conference, the same conference at which Jonathan gave a talk. So it's fitting to actually we recorded this show from Mission’s headquarters with Jonathan. We start off by talking about Jonathan's journey, how he became the CTO at Mission and what they do there. Jonathan got into computing young, his dad was a Presybterian minister and also an engineer who went to Georgia Tech. His dad even worked on the space program, and has always been a technical kind of guy. In fact, Jonathan's dad would bring home his portable computer when Jonathan was little. This computer was a Mac Plus with a handle on it! And that's where Jonathan started to code: on that little Mac Plus. He started with HyperCard and Pascal and eventually C, etc. In high school he began writing code professionally and started working at an enterprise healthcare business. He went through a few acquisitions with them, including when they were bought by an enterprise document management business so he was heavily into enterprise in its early days. From there he did a hard right into startups and went into business with his sister and brother-in-law. They created a type of SaaS application in the photography space called ShootQ. They built out a cloud native app (back in the very early days of cloud) and grew ShootQ to become an industry standard, after which they sold it to a company in LA. Which is how Jonathan met Simon Anderson (the CEO of Mission). Simon was the CMO of the company who bought ShootQ before he became the CEO of DreamHost. Jonathan and his family moved from Atlanta to LA so he could take a role with DreamHost. He had 5 different titles in 7 years with them. In those 7 years he did a lot of different things including building out cloud infrastructure, engineering management, etc. When Simon became an entrepreneur-in-residence at a private equity firm out of Boston they worked together on a thesis for the managed cloud space, which is how they both ended up at Mission. Also on today's CTO Studio, he tells us why the firm chose Mission (formerly Reliam), how they expanded to a company of 100 people today over the course of a year and what they do at Mission presently. Honing in on that kind of growth in such a short period of time, I asked Jonathan to talk more about how his team has changed and evolved as it has grown. He explains that because they are a business that does a lot of professional services and consulting a lot of Mission's technical resources work on a team other than his team. His team represents the glue that holds things together. When he started it was just him so over time he has been pulling in people who are the best fit for what they are doing. I also asked him how to decide which cloud (or clouds) to be in and he says it is about picking the best tool for the job. It's like any other exploration a CTO will undertake so the way he helps people understand the hyperscale cloud providers is simple: ultimately you are looking for someone who is going to provide you with as many shortcuts as possible to get to market. He goes on to explain the phases of evaluating each of these providers, their strengths and weaknesses, as well as why he encourages CTOs to align themselves with their product teams. We finish up with a chat about why he recommends learning Amazon’s API Gateway and Amazon’s Athena API.  Join us for this deep dive into the world of cloud services on today's episode of CTO Studio!
Joining us to explain how CTOs can best utilize recruiters is my friend and expert recruiter Kimberly Owen. Kimberly has been a recruiter for 23 years, starting in London then Silicon Valley during the first dotcom boom. Now she is based in southern California. On today's CTO Studio, we talk about what she's learned during those two decades as a recruiter in tech including why recruiters have a bad rap, what CTOs can do to make the most of their relationships with recruiters and what does the term "culture fit" actually mean? Listen in for the answers to those questions and much more on the topic of recruiting in the tech world today on this episode of CTO Studio. In this episode, you’ll hear: What was it like recruiting during the first dotcom boom? Why do recruiters get a bad rap? What language should you avoid when listing a job description? What is the proper format for a resume? How can CTOs improve their relationships with recruiters? And so much more! One of my first questions was when should a CTO stop using their networks and start using a recruiter like Kimberly? She says it depends on how quickly you need the product development to happen. How quickly are you bringing your product to market and what is the trade-off? Once you answer those questions then you can decide if recruiting is your best choice or if you should check with your network. If you are going to use your network, her advice is to be active with your social media presence. You should specify on LinkedIn what you are hiring for - especially those top positions. You should be advertising those roles. If you have an internal person who manages candidate flow they need to get an outreach campaign underway and that needs to include your own network. So after social media, what else? Kimberly says meet ups are an option but you need to know if these events are where people are asking for help and talking about vacancies and openings. If they are not then the meet ups won't help you. And how can CTOs work on their brand and their messaging to ensure they are attracting the right candidates? The job description is really important - she sees a lot of awful ones! Be sure to talk about the vision of your company and where you are going and what this person will contribute towards that vision coming to life. Candidates want a story. They want to know why do other people like working at the company, why would they want to work there and what life-changing things will they impact by being on the staff of this company. In summary, you should be capturing the story that includes the vision and the values of your company. Once you've done that be sure the job description is in the right places and having the right filters in place for whomever you enlist in your organization to sort through the candidates. And if you still can't find the right person then go to a recruiter like Kimberly! My next question was about recruiters - why do they have a bad rap and what should we look for to know we are hiring a good recruiter? To answer the first question, Kimberly says recruiters get a bad rap when they are focused on the transaction and the end result, without much for the company and the company's story. You'll know you have a good recruiter by evaluating who they know, their client list and if they have longevity with their clients. A good bet is a reference from another client of theirs and asking to talk to a few of the candidates they have placed. And meet with them in person to better understand their ethos and their culture. It requires your personal investment. Next, we move on to the candidate aspect of the process. What works on this side of things? Kimberly answers that question along with the steps to expect when hiring a recruiter and what positions are in greatest demand right now. Hear those topics plus her story of recruiting for Facebook during the first dotcom crash. This is one show you don’t want to miss so be sure to tune into today's CTO Studio.
Who better to help us understand the psychology of people in tech than a former engineer now licensed psychologist?! Joanie Connell is that very person and she is here to talk about the issues CTOs face in leading their teams. Joanie works with dev teams and technical teams on their communication. We talk about how she does that, what some of the common issues are regarding team communication in tech today and a whole lot more. Join us to hear more about the psychology of people in tech on today’s CTO Studio. In this episode, you’ll hear: What are the top challenges she sees regarding communication in tech today? Why it's important as a CTO to expand your communication toolkit. How can you deal with feeling triggered in the workplace? Why addressing uncomfortable feelings often brings people closer. What are tell tale signs you are too deep into the tech effect? And so much more! Before becoming a psychologist, Joanie was an engineer for eight years in Silicon Valley. She began as a data communications design engineer for Tandem computers. Tandem was one of the big computer companies back then right alongside HP and Apple. Tandem made mainframe computers and they had parallel processors (hence the name tandem) for everything so they would never go down. One of their biggest clients was the New York Stock Exchange. She did data communications which meant she helped mainframes communicate with modems to other computers. I asked Joanie how she made the switch to psychology - what happened that convinced her to work with the people side of tech? Joanie recalls she had gone into engineering because she thought it was a good stable job with a good income. She didn't want to be a millionaire, she just wanted a good living. People had always interested in her but it became obvious when the other engineers were so into their work they would be debugging til 2am, and she couldn't wait to leave. She realized then that the work wasn't satisfying and she felt stagnant in her work. One story she recalls is a time when there were 12 in their group and they had a manager who they met with once a month. They'd get into the conference room and you could feel the tension because no one wanted to be there. The manager would go around the room and each person had to update on their project. By person #12 everyone would be ready to leave. When that last person finished it was like school was out and everyone would run out of the room! She saw the people she was with didn't want to be around other people and they didn't have the skills to work with others, either. Engineers are trained to design, debug and code and they are not trained on how to interact with others. Joanie realized this could be a space in which she could make a difference; she coulod help engineers and other tech people communicate better. To bring more of her skills to the people side of the working world, she tried marketing and then consulting. But eventually she decided to go back to graduate school because she would find herself being pushed back into engineering roles and more technical positions. She realized she would have to re-specialize so people would see beyond her engineering background. But before making the leap, she took some night classes in Psychology to be sure this was the route she wanted to go down. And before becoming a psychologist, she considered being a therapist or counselor. A volunteer experience on a hotline convinced her otherwise, so she opted for social psychology with an emphasis on organizations and the workplace. After a few years of working for a consulting firm and teaching at university, she formed Flexible Work Solutions. Her company provides assessment for leaders and teams of people, her personal niche is with technical people. What types of scenarios does she typically get called in to work on? There are a few. One might be where a company is looking at their directors and above (their executive team) and the company evaluates what skill sets they currently have, who is going to get promoted and what is their succession plan. She works with a company in this situation by doing an assessment: figuring out who has what skill sets, and what the team currently has and what they might want to develop or hire for the future. Another scenario is individuals who have just moved up into leadership positions - this is especially common in the engineering world and the biotech world. A person has a particular expertise and then are promoted to a leadership role in which they have to utilize an entirely new set of skills outside of their expertise. She helps them through trainings and coaching. Because she has some much experience in a variety of tech companies, I asked Joanie to tell us one of the top challenges she sees regarding communication in the workplace. Joanie says with the technical people, a challenge she often sees is a lack of value attached to people skills. There's more emphasis on using data and relying on data, rather than looking at potential emotional reasons that may exist. For example, people have outside factors that affect them at work and those are things that leaders must be able to address. I agree and think this is a common issue we have in tech today. We tend to negate the emotional side of things. Joanie goes on to tell us some tools we might consider using to help with team communication. We also talk about how to speak authentically, how to structure meetings to do check in with your team and more on today's CTO Studio.
What does it take to be successful and have longevity as a a CTO in healthcare tech today? In Larry Heminger’s case it takes optimism. Larry is the CTO of Sapiens Data Science, a company committed to increasing people’s life span through healthcare tech breakthroughs.   On today’s CTO Studio, we talk about how and why Larry joined the team at Sapiens, why he’s attracted to companies that are making a difference in people’s lives and what his Design for Success approach is all about. Join us for this illuminating discussion on today’s CTO Studio.     In this episode, you’ll hear: Why doesn't he see himself retiring - ever? How many years does it take for a medical breakthrough to make it to family physicians? As CTO, how to make decisions that stand the test of scale What is his Design for Success methodology? What is the Snowflake Computing approach, and why did Larry choose them? And so much more!   Larry is the CTO of Sapiens Data Science. Our very first topic is a dive into his journey of becoming their CTO. Larry tells us about his interesting ride; he had been working with ecoATM Gazelle for about 7.5 years and had been apart of their organization from their ealy start-up days.   Larry experienced a full 360 degree business cycle with ecoATM, going public through acquisition and then back to being a private company again.  The work they did (and still do today) was in the field of automated retail: recycling of cell phones.  Even though the work was amazing, he felt it was time to look for something new and different after his 7+ years with them. He wanted to do work that was meaningful and of benefit to everyone.   Using his experience with a previous healthcare start-up, Larry found a few new opportunities in San Diego that were health tech related. Sapiens specifically interested him because of their CEO, Brad Perkins. And Larry became even more enthusiastic after meeting with Brad, hearing of Brad’s passion and learning of their mission - Sapiens is in the business of adding more birthdays to people's lives. They help people live longer through the burgeoning fields of genomics and data science.   Next I asked him to describe his mindset coming from ecoATM, a company that was retail-focused, and then going into the health tech space with Sapiens.   Larry says there are many similarities and of course some differences. For him the key was and is feeling like he is doing something good. Like most of us, Larry spends so much time at work that he wants to feel like he's having an impact on people’s lives. For him it is not just about paycheck, it’s more the opportunity to help build a new, amazing company.   He goes on to say he believes healthcare will look very different in 10 years. One area in particular is the speed at which information becomes available to physicians, he says this will be sped up exponentially. Instead of taking almost two decades for your family physician to find out about medical breakthroughs, it will happen much, much faster. Patients will also be empowered with their own data and information.   My next question for him was where does Sapiens hit roadblocks with regulations and stereotypes? Those are definitely challenges they face as any healthcare company is going to be challenged with regulations, data privacy and security. Those aspects are all very important to the success of a healthcare company in tech and outside of tech.   Larry explains the basic strategy, something he calls design for success which applies to start ups as well as larger companies. It goes like this:   If you assume your company will be successful, and you draw out the architecture of your company with that success in mind, then what does your company look like a couple of years from now? If the business grows the way you think it will, then what compliance issues do you have to deal with? Those issues could include things like privacy, data security, FDA, etc.   Every day his job as a CTO is to make decisions about things like that, to work with the development team and technology partners. In Sapiens’ case, they choose technology partners to satisfy both security and scale requirements. It doesn't always cost more, but it may require a bit more design time in terms of thinking it out when choosing architectures, cloud, databases, development languages and every other decision you make when you are building your tech stack.   He asks himself questions like what does this look like three years from now?  What does business success look like?  What issues will we have? What security compliance do we need to satisfy? What sort of auditing will we need? He keeps those thoughts in mind as he is making decisions. In essence what he is saying is this:  be optimistic, set aggressive goals, assume there will be scale and success, and don't limit yourself in the present.   One of the promises he made to his CEO is to not do something quick and dirty, something he will have to throw away that will cost a million dollars to rebuild later on. Larry tells us he has experienced this firsthand, something he doesn’t want to go through again.   We dig into this topic more including why this approach is about selecting technologies that can scale in terms of capacity and cost. We also talk about why he went with Snowflake Computing and how their approach differs from other data storage and warehouse providers. Hear those discussions plus his tips for managing near-shore resources and how their data modeling actually works on today's CTO Studio.  
What is it like to handle both hardware and software development needs? Anh Nguyen is a hybrid CTO of hardware and software and she’s here tell us all about it. Anh is the CTO of Creative Electron where they build imaging systems that use creative electrons for the purpose of inspecting samples for defects. On today’s show she’ll explain how their equipment works, what she thinks about the state of women in tech today and her journey to the United States from Vietnam when she was a child. Hear that and more on today’s CTO Studio. In this episode, you’ll hear: Do their products create image renderings in 2D or 3D? Are their offerings all custom-made? Why or why not? How does their annual preventative maintenance work? y/What was it like to participate in Hacking for the Homeless? Why women should embrace being women CTOs and not just CTOs. And so much more! On of my first questions to Anh is whether they are mostly a hardware company or a software imaging company. Anh responds by telling us what her CEO likes to say: "What we are is a software company that delivers our product in a hardware box." Although that sounds like something a sales person would say, her CEO actually has a background in EE and an MBA. He has come up with a lot of their ideas and how they have productized those ideas. He works with her and their COO to come up with solutions that work for their customers. Who are those customers exactly - who makes up their customer base? PCB manufacturers, electronic manufacturing services. She goes on to explain how their products work and why they are safe to use without protective gear! My next question was about her responsibilities as CTO. Does she preside over a hybrid of hardware and software? Yes. Because software is managing the hardware they are very intertwined. As far as what hardware is going to be used and how things are integrated those decisions are all under the software stack. Anh and her team make suggestions on what is compatible or not. We dive into the world of X-rays a bit deeper including Anh's explanation of how their imaging systems work in a variety of settings before talking about her journey to becoming CTO. Was she hired to become CTO or did she advance into the role from a different position within the company? She became one. Her original title within the company was VP of Software Development. Then last year she became CTO. They have been growing and because software is so intertwined into their products that originally her focus was on maintaining and developing the software side of things. But over time her CEO realized they needed to have a tighter relationship between software and hardware. He said it made sense for her to be CTO and to think about new strategies they can deploy and new technologies they can start implementing to grow their software along with their hardware. Does she have direct reports from both hardware and software? She does and when asked how she manages both she laughs and says you just do it! She says it's the equivalent of working at a startup essentially. Making good software they do have to understand what is happening with the hardware so managing both hardware and software is a natural evolution. Because they are a startup you just have to dive in and figure things out. The main advice she would give others is to simply do it. From here we get more into the mechanics of how Anh "CTOs". She doesn't have VPs she manages directly. She has three direct reports and then she will also talk to the manufacturing team.  The person who does all of the CAD designs will come to her and her team to ensure everything they are creating can be fully integrated; they all want to be sure the software performs up to the levels the customers need which means having repeatable results and being able to accurately go to any given target. Do they customize all of their products or do they have some standard products available? They have some standard offerings, but because they have customers that have very specific defects they look for and everyone wants automated intervention it does become very custom. Anh explains more on today's show as well as the state of women in tech today along with her escape from Vietnam as a child. It is truly an American dream come true! Join us to hear that inspiring story and more on this edition of CTO Studio.   Episode Resources: Creative Electron Anh Nguyen on LinkedIn Hacking for Humanity Hackathon San Diego 7CTOs
If you saw a need or an opportunity outside of your industry would you recognize it? Our guest did and he’s here to tell us about it. Alan Leard is one of the co-founders of Limelight Health, a quoting, underwriting, proposal platform that started as an idea for an app.  You'll hear the origin story of Limelight Health today as well as how it has evolved, plus Alan's thoughts on having four co-founders and making the transition into the CTO role. Join us for those insights and more on today's CTO Studio! In this episode, you’ll hear: Why four co-founders is the best number to have. What are the three questions I ask every CEO before I join a startup? When did he know it was time to make the transition into CTO at Limelight Health? What are the ways they mitigate risk? Why are the technical challenges of Limelight Health so attractive? And so much more! When I asked Alan to tell me what Limelight Health does he explained Limelight involves everything that needs to happen from the moment an employer says they are going to get insurance for their employees through the point when the employees are actually choosing the health insurance right for them. The process is about providing accurate information on what plans are available and quote them accurately, as well as apply contribution modeling as far as how much the employer is going to pay and how much the employee is going to pay. All of that gets wrapped up into a proposal that helps the employer make a decision. But how Limelight got its start goes back to one of Alan's first businesses: a make-your-own wine bar. Before he and his wife had kids they wanted to do something together, they wanted to run a business together. When they came across the idea of a make-your-own-wine wine bar it seemed perfect and they set about making it happen. They ran their bar together through all the ups and downs that entailed. That bar also led Alan to meet one of his future fellow co-founders of Limelight Health. It started after the wine bar had been up and running for about four years. Alan realized he was putting in 12 hours at the wine bar then coming home and making mobile apps as a hobby on the side. Along the way he also met Garrett when Alan hired him as a musician to play at one of the bar's Wine and Roses events. Alan had also gotten hired with Accelerator in a support role - he mainly offered support for other developers using that platform. When Garrett began talking to Alan about an app idea he had Alan's ears perked up. But Alan was no stranger to app ideas, he had so many people approach him with ideas that Alan had a series of questions he asked everyone who talked to him! The first was does that app already exist? Have you checked the app store? If they had and the app wasn't already made (which was the case with Garrett’s idea) then he had a follow-up question. That question was do you know what user stories are? Garrett didn't so Alan explained to him what they are. A week later Garrett came back with full-on wireframes and had written out user stories. So they built that app together, it was an app meant to help people find local artists online. After that Garrett saw the potential in his everyday line of work: insurance brokerage. This was about the time the Affordable Care Act was coming into existence and Garrett wanted to be able to help his families find the right options for them. So they turned it into a lead gen app: you would plug in your household size, your income and location. The app would then tell you what your insurance was going to cost. There was also an in-app purchase which would allow brokers to have their customers quickly get an idea of what they were going to pay and then the brokers would help the customers sign up for a plan straightaway. And that is how they found their other two co-founders Jason and Michael. Garrett showed them and a few months later they both came on board. That meant they have four co-founders and I was curious about what that first meeting was like. Alan's recollection of that meeting is fuzzy he says because he was the third-party; he had a lot going on outside of the app as he was running the winery and still working at Accelerator and a few other side projects. It took awhile before he became a co-founder and he explains why on this episode of CTO Studio.  We wrap up with a talk about the current state of healthcare, and what he is loving the most about being CTO of Limelight Health. This is a fascinating and frank chat about the reality of SaaS startups, working within the insurance industry and healthcare itself. Join us and hear for yourself on this edition of CTO Studio!
On this episode of CTO Studio, we talk extensively about CTO authority versus CTO leadership with Michael Bastos. Michael was the CTO of a San Diego company called LocalStack before moving to Austin, Texas to run the benefits API team for the VA’s web site. Having been in positions of leadership and authority in the civilian world and in the military, Michael joins us to talk about the differences and similarities in each. We also dig into the Austin tech scene and what it’s like to work for two CTOs in his current role. Join us for those topics and much more on today's CTO Studio. In this episode, you’ll hear: When do you need to have uncomfortable conversations about leadership and authority? What two books changed his entire career path? How did he transition from being a CTO to working under another CTO? Why negotiation is very much a part of leadership. Do leadership and authority both require high risks for high rewards? And so much more! My first question is about the Austin tech scene - what is it like these days? He says it is different, not from a negative perspective. In San Diego he has watched the tech scene grow and he knew the people who worked hard to make it what it is today. It became one person helping another person, everyone lifting each other up. But Austin has a lot of big, established companies already so it's harder to have that same close-knit feeling to others in the tech scene. It's much harder to get that same feeling because there are established businesses plus others coming in from San Francisco. There are differences among technology leaders in Austin too, some are doing old things and others are doing new. The old tech is still valid and still enterprising, but you also have new tech showing up like GraphQL. And those two worlds don't mix all that often. Next we talk about his transition from being a CTO of local San Diego company and then he moved to Austin to take a position as the Head of Engineering for a real estate startup. Now he is in a role with a company that is building's API.  Having been a CTO, he now works for another CTO in a contracting role and is running the Benefits API team for They are building out VA's entire external API infrastructure for VA's new external system. Among other things, it allows outsider contributors to come in and build applications for veterans and the like. As a veteran himself, he especially likes being involved in a project like this one. What are some of the main apps that he sees being built or is it too early to tell? They have everything built already in terms of infrastructure. Originally the project started out as and then it did so well over time that they basically took over the site. It's a pretty well established project now, they have full CI and deployments. It is mostly Rails-based and for the most part everything they do is public. Also on today’s CTO studio, we talk about how he came to be in the Marine Corps after having been born in Brazil. His dad called his bluff and said Michael would be moving out when he turned 18, whether he was in college or not. So Michael went out and visited a bunch of recruiters, including a recruiter from the Marine Corps.  But Michael's dad was bluffing - Michael's older brother moved back in as soon as he left! He laughs about it now and says it was the best bluff in the sense that his dad probably wouldn't have kicked him out, but it gave Michael the push to get out into the world. Which leads us to talk about our main topic: authority versus leadership as a CTO. Having been in the Marine Corps, he knows firsthand about authority so I wanted to talk about the issue of authority versus leadership. I asked him to explain the challenges of authority that are inherent with being a CTO. Michael breaks it down by sharing something he was taught in the Marine Corps about Marine Corps leadership. Authority and leadership are two very different things. Most people think they are one and the same. Authority is granted, it is given and is not necessarily something you can take. Leadership is the actions people have. You can have authority without having any leadership. And you can have leadership without having any authority.  Leadership is how to treat people. The perfect concept of leadership and authority is when those two positions merge. When you have somebody that is both a leader and is willing to accept those responsibilities and that role, they are the person people go to. Developers are excited to work with these types of people whether they are CTOs or the head of engineers or another similar role. He's been in both scenarios: he's been the guy who had to learn the leadership side because he was given authority without understanding anything about leadership, and he's also been the leader with zero authority but had people come to him because he could answer their questions or help them with their problems. It's beneficial to understand each of these ideas and to also understand where you are at: are you a leader without authority or do you have authority and need to develop leadership? What are some symptoms that you are in the first scenario? Michael answers this question as well as some great insights and wisdom on negotiating. Tune in to hear the details on today’s CTO Studio with Michael Bastos.   Episode Resources: Michael Bastos on LinkedIn Getting to Yes, by Roger Fisher, William Ury and Bruce Patton Getting Past No, by William Ury Pitching Anything, by Oren Klaff GitHub for VA 7CTOs  
The start of a new year is always a time for new resolutions - but our guest is here to tell us why creating clear and powerful intentions is far more effective. Michelle Saul is the founder and president of Possibilities Consulting and she was my first ever real coach.  Speaking of today's episode of CTO Studio, Michelle is here to define intentions versus resolutions and why the role of the CTO within the C suite can be so hard sometimes. Join us and hear her insights on those matters and more on this edition of CTO Studio.  In this episode, you’ll hear: What makes a great leader? Do CMOs have a higher turnover rate than other C suite roles? What is the death knell in a company? Why it's important to seek first to understand before being understood. When do people become defensive? And so much more! My first question to Michelle is what does she first feel when she meets a CTO? She says the first thing she feels is overwhelming compassion! Most executives - especially CTOs - are stressed. And CTOs in particular are stressed because they get blamed for so much and then they are forced to create deadlines. Basically they are forced into situations that seem impossible and then are blamed when they say no. But is that the nature of a tech company - does the CTO get blamed because the company is within the tech field or is it the CTO's personality? Yes and yes according to Michelle. To address the first piece: a lot of people (even within tech companies) don't understand the complexity of changes they are requesting so the CTO themselves get frustrated because they are still blamed if it breaks or doesn't work. As far as the personality piece, typically because CTOs are technology people they are geeks who like facts and data and information. They love to fix things. But then their C suite team asks them to be more than data, information and facts. Basically, CTOs are being asked to have a sales component; they are being asked to convince their executive team of why the CTO needs things done in a specific way (ie why they need to hire more people, why things need to be done in a certain way or in a certain timeframe, etc). But CTOs are not sales people.  If the C suite doesn't understand what the CTO does then how is that CTO left feeling, in her experience? Does it feel like no one understands the pressure they are under? Yes, that's the key: not feeling understood. Coupled with that is the fact the tech side of a business costs money, while the sales side brings in money. So that sometimes leads to a CEO investing a lot of money into the sales and marketing, and not as much on tech because tech doesn't directly generate cash the way sales and marketing does. What advice does she have for a CTO who has realized they are not being heard by their C suite? There's a transformation that has to happen in that scenario, it's more than just a tweak or an adjustment. In fact, it's a lifetime. It's more than just looking at why aren't you being effective and why are you doing and saying things that are causing you to be ineffective within the C suite or within your team? She helps people in this situation to look at their own personal obstacles. Great leaders know themselves and are committed to examining their own lives. The challenge with the CTO is that often that person is the smartest person in the room, but they need to develop the emotional intelligence to have the empathy and communication skills to sell their ideas and to share their excitement and their feelings. Instead they often just show anger or frustration or disappointment - but great teams need more emotional components. So they need to transform their thought processes and this happens over a lifetime. It isn't something you fix once and for all, it happens over a lifetime. Next on the CTO Studio, we also talk about saying tough things to people: it's important to let people know you care, then you can say tough things to them. One of Michelle's favorite quotes sums this up: people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. When they know you care the other person can hear what you are saying without making excuses. We also discuss how to create intentions and why the mechanics of making those intentions will happen once you become crystal clear on your actual intention. One bit of advice she has to chunk things down: ask yourself what you want for your day. How do you want it to look? Don’t make a resolution for the entire year, just look at today and ask what you want to create and what do you want to let go of for today. You can hear Michelle explain this in more detail on today’s episode, including the formula for a clear intention statement for your day as well as why looking for the flaws can sometimes get us in trouble. We wrap up with her personal stories about Tesla and how she and her husband turned a past regret into a new opportunity; join us to hear her tales on today’s CTO Studio.
One of the biggest areas of stress for CTOs is productivity and someone with a lot of wisdom in this area is Rob Kaufman. Rob is the co-founder of LEARN Academy where he helps people become software developers and then helps them become employed in the field. Today on CTO Studio with Rob we go deep into the subject of productivity and running a coding school. Join us and listen in to this fascinating discussion!  In this episode, you’ll hear: How much focus is on collaboration skills at LEARN Academy? Why it's important to have students solve their own problems. What is the difference between a junior developer and a senior developer? The naive algorithm: what is it? Why he knows what burn out looks like and how he actively fights against it. And so much more! Our first topic is LEARN Academy, Rob graduates about 20 coders every 2 months. The format for LEARN Academy works like this: it's 3 months full-time in the classroom and then one month full-time in an internship before graduating. They work with companies all over San Diego to ensure their graduates end the program with work experience. When he talks to prospective students he tells them the last day of group projects and the first day of internships should feel like same, just in a different place. And he also tells them the last day of their internship and the first day of their full-time job should also feel that way. But for about 40% of their students it feels exactly the same and it's in the same place - about 40% of their graduates end up staying on with their internship and working their after graduation. They also offer job services for the other 60%, and they offer job services beyond their graduate's first job. They reach out when they are transitioning from their first job and LEARN Academy's career services person meets with them, does a second resume check and talks to them about growing from their junior roles and transitioning into the next phase of their career. His goal as well as his CEO's goal at LEARN is a long-term partnership with their students. It's not about coming in and learning code and never contacting LEARN Academy again, it's a much bigger process that takes place over the entire career of the student. In fact, LEARN has been so effective with their partnerships that alumni are now hiring new graduates into their businesses! What does the landscape look like for LEARN among the coding schools out there? When they started there were no code schools in southern California, and the idea came about because his software consulting office in Portland brought in six interns from a local code school up there and they hired four of them after graduation. Rob wanted to replicate that process in his San Diego office but he couldn't because there were no code schools in the area. Driving home one night after an SD Ruby meetup he realized if no one else was going to start a code school then he was going to have to do it. Fortunately, his partner Chelsea was there to help. She has a background in business and education which combined with his passion for technology allowed them to create a code school. Because Chelsea is from San Diego and Rob is from LA, their school was built with a San Diego vibe to it. They inherently created a place with a work-life balance and with community at its core.  They've had students who have lost family members while they were in school and those students needed to suspend their time and come back at a later cohort. They sit down and have a conversation with their students; they work with people wherever they are at and that allows the school to be successful. Code schools live and die by their employment number - that is what they are competitive about. He can say comfortably that 84% of LEARN Academy graduates have employment in software development within 6 months of graduation, and they are stingy about that number. For example, they had an alumnus whose father passed away and the alumnus took over the auto dealership. They don't count him because he doesn't have a job as a software developer. They want to be honest with that number and to be realistic about that number. So what type of people do they attract as a result of that number - people who want a job or people who want to code? It is both, according to Rob. They want a career and software development is a great career because it has a future that is really obvious. There is a huge shortfall of software developers in the industry and that is why code schools now exist. There is a great need for talent. And how many of those people who come to LEARN Academy are looking for their first careers versus people changing fields? Most people who come are changing their careers. Rob estimates probably 80-90% have had some sort of job, they aren't fresh out of school. He further breaks it down by explaining roughly 60-65% of LEARN students are in their 20s and 30s looking for their first big career or wanting to change their career. And the other 35%-40% are people who did things like software development in the 80s and then went into management, or maybe they are a CEO or CTO who is tired of doing the nearly impossible task of finding a technical co-founder. So they want to know enough to be their own technical co-founder and join LEARN to do it. Also on today's CTO Studio Rob and I also talk about who teaches at LEARN Academy, and why to balance your talent ratio. We end the show by talking about how to choose which specific productivity regimens we should add into our lives and then how to add them. You can hear us weigh in all of those topics on today’s CTO Studio.  
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