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ExecuTalks

Author: Ash Faraj

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Inspiring career stories from today's top CEOs, executives, and leaders
55 Episodes
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Howard Behar grew up in North Seattle, attended Roosevelt High School, and struggled to find his way early on in his life.  He took some courses at Everett community college but didn’t finish school because he was directing his energy towards his work.  At the time he was helping run his brother’s furniture store in Edmonds, WA.  He would spend the next couple of decades in the furniture business – eventually becoming president of one of the companies he’d worked for.   Then, when he was in his forties, decided to purchase a business.  As he was searching and networking with people, he met Howard Schultz, who had recently purchased Starbucks.  After getting to know each other, Howard Behar made a proposal to work at Starbucks for free for one week before committing to join.  When Howard Behar first joined Starbucks, it was a regional brand with a few locations – as we chat about in the conversation, he played a critical role in not only expansion across the country, but international expansion all over the world.  Today, Starbucks has a market cap of over $138 billion, employing more than 349,000 people worldwide, with more than 62,000 stores in over 83 countries. Tune into this episode to get a full look into Howard’s career journey leading up to Starbucks, what challenges and setbacks he faced at Starbucks, and what his advice is for those of us who strive to excel in our careers and live an exceptional life.
Mike Clayville is the Chief Revenue Officer of Stripe, a payment processing company that is building the economic infrastructure of the internet.  Their mission is increasing the GDP of the internet -- and Stripe is valued at almost $100 billion.  In our conversation, we talk about Mike’s career journey leading up to Stripe.  He was born and raised in Idaho, got a degree in geotechnical engineering and then went on to get his MBA after he had a hard time finding a job.  After graduating, he went to work for IBM, the world’s most profitable company at the time, and worked his way up the ranks eventually becoming an IBM executive.  After IBM, Mike made several career moves, eventually landing at Amazon Web Services, as a Vice President, where he helped grow their business from $1.8 billion to $43 billion in sales.  Stick around until the end and hear about how Mike was able to make career moves that positioned himself to win big, what he thinks are important things to consider when making career moves, and why he started the Clayville Foundation to lend a helping hand in curing cancer. 
In this episode, you’ll get to hear from Howard Tiersky.  Howard began his career in theater and performing arts before starting his consulting career at Ernst & Young.  There, he would build E&Y’s first website and get exposed to a whole new world.  After 15 years of being in the consulting space, Howard started his own business; From Digital, a digital transformation agency that helps companies develop new digital products for all kinds of industries.  Howard is the author of the Wall Street Journal’s best-selling book, Winning Digital Customers.  In our conversation, we talk briefly about Howard’s career journey before transitioning into an especially important topic; business in the digital age.  Stick around until the end and you’ll get to hear Howard’s thoughts on how to really understand your customer, building digital experiences around your customers, and what causes most digital products to fail in our world today. 
A fourth generation Puget Sound native and nascent New Yorker, Kurt has always felt passionately about authentic, full-flavored foods, free of artificial additives. Kurt is the owner and head chef of Sugar Mountain, a creative food company that is home to extraordinary food brands and restaurants, from the award-winning Beecher’s Handmade Cheese to The Butcher’s Table, a swanky steakhouse that features Mishima Reserve, Sugar Mountain’s American Wagyu beef brand. With each operation, Kurt’s goal is to demonstrate how quality ingredients make for delicious meals, without added food colorings, flavor enhancers, or preservatives. Beyond the retail world, Kurt is effecting change in people’s eating habits through his book, Pure Food, and through The Beecher’s Foundation (501c3). Through education and community engagement, the Foundation inspires people to eat real food and vote with every food dollar.In our conversation Kurt takes us way back to his early childhood growing up in Seattle, what struggles he faced at work coming out of college, and ultimately, what inspired Kurt to purchase businesses like Seattle’s famous Pasta & Company and start Beecher’s Cheese, one of the most successful food brands in the world.  And if you stick around until the end, you will get to hear all about Kurt's ambitious philanthropic goal of changing the way America eats.
In this special episode, we chat with Chris George, a serial entrepreneur who has successfully started and managed 7 businesses in his career (most recently Founder of Certified).  His first business that he started in college, was a debt collection agency that he worked in for almost a decade.  His most recent venture was a subscription-based men’s fashion company: Gentleman’s Box.  Today, he’s chairman of the subscription trade association, a for-profit association that he co-founded. You’ll want to listen closely because in this episode we discuss business strategy, marketing tactics, and what it takes to be successful as an entrepreneur in any industry.
In this episode, we cover the man behind the largest biotechnology IPO in history, Steve Harr.  Steve co-founded Sana biotechnology, a company that  went public earlier this year (2021) and raised almost $600 million dollars in its IPO.  Sana is changing the way diseases are cured.  Their approach is based on repairing and controlling genes within cells, essentially engineering cells so that they are better equipped to fight off diseases.  Prior to co-founding Sana, Steve served as an executive at Juno Therapeutics, a biotech company that was acquired for $11 billion in 2018, and worked as managing director at Morgan Stanley for over a decade.  If you stick around for the whole episode, you'll get insight into the extreme highs and lows of Steve's career journey, you will hear what Steve would advise his younger self, and you will get a peek into how he thinks about leadership.
In this episode, we hear from Finimize CEO & Co-Founder, Maximillian Rofagha.  He grew up in Berlin, Germany, attended a very diverse, international high school, and went on to study economics and international relations in Scotland.  He did a year abroad in the U.S., and interned at eBay, Goldman Sachs, McKinsey and Company, and a German Stock Exchange.  After college, he worked in management consulting for a year and half before starting his first business.  3 and half years later, he started Finimize, a company that was sparked by a movement, a community of people that believe everyone should have access to financial information that is not complicated to understand.  Today, Finimize is building the world’s largest and most engaged finance community, democratizing financial information for people who need it most. Headquartered in London, Finimize has amassed a community of over 1 million people from all over the world.
Mary grew up on a very rural, cattle ranch in New Mexico just above the US-Mexico border, where she learned to drive when she was just seven years old and had no television in her home.   She attended Williams college, in Massachusetts town near the New York-New Hampshire border.  She first intended in going into politics, then fell in love with drama and theater, so she shifted her major.  After college, she decided to study law.After law school, Mary went to work for a natural gas utility in El Paso, TX, the city in Texas that borders Mexico and New Mexico.  She worked as an in-house lawyer at the utility for several years, then went to work for a traditional law firm for a short period of time before she realized she didn’t like working as a traditional lawyer. So, she went to work for the (FERC) Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. abbreviated FERC or “FERC”.   She spent her time prosecuting utility companies that were not abiding by the law.  After 4 years, she went back to work for El Paso Electric Company, where she would work her way up to the CEO position. After spending a huge portion of her career in El Paso, Mary decided to join Puget Sound Energy in Bellevue, WA in 2019 to take on an ambitious challenge. Today, Puget Sound Energy, employs more than 2,500 people, and serves over 1 million customers.
Today’s guest is Scott Torrey, PayScale CEO.  Scott always knew he wanted to be in business, so he attended a commerce-focused college and worked in consulting after college.  After an 8-year career in consulting, Scott pivoted and joined Concur which was later acquired by SAP, and would remain there for 20 years of his career.  He took a very short break before a recruiter presented an opportunity to lead PayScale in 2019.   PayScale serves 100 million monthly website visitors, powers compensation information for over 35 million employees and 7,000 companies, with a vision of democratizing compensation information. 
Today’s guest is Surabhi Gupta, Robinhood’s VP of Engineering.   Surabhi grew up in India and pursued an education in computer science.  She participated in an internship with Microsoft, and her research focused on artificial intelligence and natural language processing.  She worked on creating a system for producing scalable summaries of conversations extracted from video content.  Surabhi then took a job with Google as a software engineer and worked on improving the relevance of search results for users. Eventually, Surabhi got introduced to executives at Airbnb, and was exposed to the search problems they were aiming to solve.  She joined as a software engineer on the search team in 2013, and in 4 years became the Director of Engineering, overseeing the entire engineering team.  While she was there, the company had grown from just 60 engineers to 1,500 engineers.  Surabhi spent almost 7 years of her career at Airbnb before leaving to join Robinhood in 2020.   Robinhood's  mission is to democratize finance and investing for everyone, offering commission-free trading.  Never before has any financial services company offered commission-free trading.  This is a completely new approach, and it’s what drew Surabhi in to join their mission and lead their engineering team.  Today, Surabhi leads Robinhood’s engineering team of more than 500 people. 
Today, we make history.  It’s the first time we’ve had an executive from the city on our show.  All of our guests before this show have been business executives. Today’s guest is Debra Smith, Seattle City Light’s CEO.  She graduated with a finance degree from Arizona State University, and kickstarted her career in the oil industry working for ConocoPhillips.  Shortly after, transitioned into commercial banking in Portland, then moved into utilities at the Eugene Water and Electric Board, then Central Lincoln PUD, before joining Seattle City Light in 2018.  Now, you’ll want to be sure to stick around until the end because Debra takes us through not only her career journey, which pivoted from oil and gas to banking to utilities management, but her personal journey that impacted her career progression.  Her challenging childhood with her parents being unhappily married, the breakups, divorces, and ultimately, the personal lessons from all of her experiences.  In 2018, Debra was nominated by Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan to lead Seattle City Light, Seattle's largest department by budget, as the CEO & General Manager.  Today, Debra leads Seattle City Light, responsible for providing power to the entire city, has over 1,800 employees, and is responsible for 25% of Seattle’s entire budget as a city. 
Today’s guest is Adena Hefets, CEO & Co-Founder of Divvy Homes.  She grew up in Long Island, New York to immigrant parents who lived paycheck to paycheck, and were not financially stable, and this drove her ambition to be financially independent at a very young age.  She would go on to work in lots of finance roles like investment banking, private equity, venture capital, and also worked in product management, before starting Divvy Homes with her cofounders.  In 2016, Adena started Divvy Homes with two other co-founders with a mission to make home ownership accessible to everyone.  Today, Divvy has raised almost $300 million in funding, and is changing the world of real estate. 
Today, you will hear from Ryan Hogan, CEO & Co-Founder of Hunt A Killer.  He joined the Navy out of high school, got admitted into a very competitive military program after 6 years of hard work, started multiple businesses that needed multiple pivots, until they ended up failing.  In 2016, a few years after Ryan’s last business had failed, he got together with his childhood friend Derrick and together, they began thinking of how they could create experiences for people that felt real.  Hunt A Killer was born, and today, with a mission to provide first-class entertainment to mystery and thriller lovers around the world, Hunt A Killer has been listed by Inc. Magazine as the 6th fastest-growing private company in 2020, and one of the World's Most Innovative Companies by Fast Company.
Melinda Lee began her professional life as an attorney out of college, but transitioned into the media business.  She admits that she’s always had a passion for pop culture and being in the media business in some form, but didn’t think it was possible because she didn’t' see many people that looked like her in media.  Also, her parents’ journey of immigrating to the U.S. from Taiwan and the pressure of being a "doctor or lawyer" influenced her heavily to pursue a career in law.  If you have immigrant parents or know someone who does, you know what the pressure of not wanting to let them down feels like.  She then realized she could practice law in the media space.  This is what eventually led her to be in the media business.Today, Melinda is the President of StageTEN's Media Network, a technology-driven platform that is changing the future of how content is monetized.  Instead of monetizing through 30-second advertising, content creators can now livestream and easily offer actual products and IP through their livestreams.
Our guest today is Matias Muchnick, co-founder & CEO of NotCo – A Chile-based AI-driven food technology company that is redefining food.  They’ve raised over $110 million dollars, including a big investment from Jeff Bezos!  So, you’ll want to be sure to stick around until the end to hear all about what how NotCo is using AI to make vegan meat, milk, cheese and other products that are vegan but look, smell, taste, and feel like they are not vegan. Matias first realized that he wanted to pursue entrepreneurship in the consumer foods space after being in investment banking during the early stages of his career.  He went on to create an app called chooz that was meant to reward healthy living behavior, which ended up failing.   Almost two years later, he moved on and decided to start Eggless, this was Chile’s first food company to develop and launch healthy plant-based foods in traditionally animal based categories.  That experience led him to travel to the United States to learn more about data science around food, and he would eventually start NotCo, which is a Food-Tech company based in Chile that leverages artificial intelligence to quickly and accurately develop plant-based foods that appeal to the mass market.
Today's guest is Spencer Rascoff. If you're reading this you probably know who Spencer is, but in case you don't, he most known for co-founding Zillow Group and was the CEO for a long time before stepping down in 2019 to focus on his new ventures dot.LA and Pacaso. In his first startup experience, Spencer co-founded an online travel company called Hotwire which later sold to Expedia in 2003. After working at Expedia for some time he felt the need for a change and started Zillow with other ex-Expedia employees. He is the co-author of "Zillow Talk: Rewriting the rules of real estate" and the host of two podcasts "Office Hours" and "Dad I have a question." In this conversation we take you through Spencer's entire career journey including the highs and lows, and learning lessons along the way.
Today’s guest is the famous Dave Asprey: As seen on Bloomberg, The New York Times, Business Insider, Fast Company, CNN, Men’s Health, Rolling Stone, Vogue, Forbes and many more!He sold the first product EVER over the internet, was a top 100 influencer in cloud computing for 20-years, and is the father of what is called, biohacking.  You’ll want to be sure to stick around until the end to hear what Dave’s secret to success was at such a young age was. Throughout most of Dave’s early life, he was poor and that was a driving factor for his motivation to make money when he was really young.  He went to school for computer science, and worked in cloud-computing for 20-years before discovering his true passion.  Helping people hack their biology to tap into the unlimited potential of being human.  Today, he runs multiple businesses, but he is most focused on Bulletproof, the hundred-million-dollar venture-backed company that was started as a blog in 2011, and now reaches tens of millions of consumers with unique food products, award-winning podcasts, and best-selling books.
Joel is the Former CEO of SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, one of the largest public entertainment companies in the world, Former CEO of Herschend Family Entertainment, one of the largest private entertainment companies in the world, the Former CEO of Saab Automobile, AND most importantly, the Author of one of the best books I have ever read called “Love Works: Seven Timeless Principles for Effective Leaders”, endorsed by Bill Haslam, Governor of Tenessee, Dan Cathy, President of Chick-fil-A, and congressman John Campbell.If you'd like to get Joel's book, please visit his website at www.joelmanby.com 
You'll want to listen in to this to hear how a girl who grew up in a household with 5 older brothers in Southern California went from not knowing what she was going to be when she grew up, to volunteering to work at a company that had a terribly negative culture, to writing a very convincing letter to the CEO of then a small company called Tableau Software, to scaling Tableau from being a $5 million company to a $1 billion company as the Chief Marketing Officer.
Fortive CEO: Jim Lico

Fortive CEO: Jim Lico

2021-01-2538:03

Today’s guest is Jim Lico, the CEO of Fortive Corporation, it’s the Fortune 500 company based in Washington that you probably haven’t heard of before, well, until now of course!  Fortive has 18 subsidiaries including notable brands like Fluke and Tektronix. You’ll want to stick around for the entire episode to get a peek into what Jim’s childhood was like growing up in Detroit when General Motors was the biggest company in the world, you will hear Jim share some valuable experiences early in his career that he hadn’t shared before, and Jim shares with us that we should know if we aspire to be business leaders. In 2016, while Jim was working at Danaher, the executives at Danaher made a strategic decision to spin off Fortive as a separate company, and the reasoning behind it was that Danaher’s business was focused on life sciences and innovation in the medical space, while Fortive’s business was focused on technologies for industrial applications.  Since they had two distinct end consumers, they decided it was best to separate the entities.  Now, when that happened, Jim was asked to be the CEO of Fortive, and he would now be running a billion-dollar publicly traded business with 25,000 employees, something he admits, he wasn’t necessarily prepared for.  Today, Fortive has a market cap of almost 24 billion dollars!
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