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Predictions for 2020 and beyond

The year now is 2020! Happy new year! And a happy new decade!

I like the sound of 2020, like clear vision. Perfect time to share some predictions for 2020 and beyond – on tech, on politics and other macro trends.

There are some positives and there are some negatives. So here they are in no particular order. 

1. There will be a big tech break-up or not quite?

Prediction number one – there will be big tech breakup (or not quite?). There will be some noise in the system to break up big tech – companies like Amazon, Facebook, Google, etc. And there could also be some possible class action against Amazon for copying other brands.

The government, they will end up scoring, I would say a symbolic victory. And most of the tech companies will be able to work around these legal changes. The result – everyone wins except consumers. Because these companies will continue their march towards complete world domination and the politicians, they will be able to score some brownie points.

2.Trump wins in 2020

Prediction number two – Trump wins in 2020. Primarily because Democrats will not have a strong leader and will not have clear messaging. This is nothing new for Democrats because, except Obama, they’ve not really had a great leader with a clear strategy, great communication and mass appeal in the last 20 years.

This is not exactly a tech prediction, but given that a lot of our politics is now influenced by the tech we use, this is also a tech prediction.

3. The US avoids recession in 2020

Prediction number three – the US avoids recession in 2020. I predict either a good year or a great year. And assuming Trump wins again, we may actually see a melt-up in the stock market. Having said that, we’ve gone sort of the longest time in history without at least a 20% pullback. Which means the major stock correction is around the corner. It’s not a matter of if, but it’s a matter of when. Nobody knows when this pullback will happen. So the investing strategy that works all the time is time in the market is better than timing the market.

4. AI creates new jobs in 2020 and beyond

Prediction number four – AI creates new jobs in 2020 and beyond. Many of these jobs will be created as a result of AI’s evolution. These jobs will have brand new titles and have completely new job descriptions. A lot of the knowledge workers and tech workers essentially will become the trainers and curators of Artificial Intelligence.

As AI goes from general-purpose, the AI that we see as in Alexa, Google Home, and Siri, it will evolve into more of a purpose-built AI. We will see the need to hire more people from the industry that have subject matter experts who can train these AI engines.So these will be brand new opportunities created through AI.

5.More inequality

Prediction number five – higher inequality. Automation and AI will start to create some displacement of workers, not only in blue-collar (although that’s going to be a lot of them) but also in white-collar workers. The gig economy that we’re seeing through Uber and other platforms, it will start to spread to white-collar workers as well. Digitization will move all atoms to bits and so anything that can be digitized will be digitized.

So if there are jobs out there that involve acting as an intermediary or have sort of low value repeated tasks, those will likely get disrupted. So the displacement in jobs is not to displays the entire job. But it will likely carve out a lot of the tasks that are repeatable. A low value is of intermediary nature.

6. From Coastland to Heartland

Prediction number six – from Coastland to Heartland. The movement of knowledge workers from the Coastland to the Heartland gains momentum in 2020. Case in point, if you’re looking for a one way you haul, it costs about four times for people to move from California to Texas, then to move from Texas to California. And people on the coasts are really dealing with a lot of issues. They are facing a rising cost of living, including real estate, among other things. They are facing bad infrastructure, their traffic commutes are getting worse because of congestion. And the general quality of life versus the price that they’re paying is not adding up. So a lot of these are driving people to move and the new tax law, it’s going to be the last straw to break the camel’s back.

This will be the year when people file for taxes. They really started to understand the impact of the new tax law on their take-home pay. More people will make the move from the coast, both those coasts to the Heartland in 2020. You know, one interesting nature of this is because of this move, many of the Heartland states, they will turn from red to purple to blue over a period of time. Politically speaking, of course.

7. Startups focus on profitability

Prediction number seven – startups focus on profitability. You know, when we started talking about coastland, it’s also important to talk about what’s going on within the coast – the startup scene. After the WeWork Debacle, the VC community is now asking for profitability from startups. So it will no longer be the mantra of growing at all costs, but it will be about profitable growth.

And this will throw a wrench in the way startups are organized and how they go to the market and so these are very interesting times ahead in terms of how the startups pivot and they cross the chasm of profitable growth in both the enterprise market as well as the consumer market.

8. SaaS organizational evolution

Prediction number eight – SaaS organizational evolution. Would this new direction towards profitability? A lot of startups and established tech companies will have to rethink their operating models. This means there will be some evolution in the way SaaS companies acquire, retain, and renewing customers.

We’ve already seen a lot of these subscription companies move away from the traditional funnel type of way to work with customers to a flywheel model of continuously acquiring, retaining and renewing customers. And because of that, SaaS companies will go through some evolution. They will organize their marketing, sales, customer success, and other functions differently. It’s likely that we will see some hybrid organizations emerge out of this evolution. Very exciting stuff.

9. New non-US unicorns

Prediction number nine – new non-US unicorns. The higher penetration is already bringing about more people online than ever before in Asia. And especially that’s true in India and China. The first unicorns are already in play. Didi Chuxing, Kuaishou, Paytm, Grab, OYO, Ola – all of these companies are already unicorns.

In 2020 and beyond, we will see far more unicorn startups. Because software starts to eat the world in Asian markets across multiple industries. So they will be eating the software, will eat the market and transport, finance, food, e-commerce, real estate, infrastructure, and many other industries. So watch out for those Asian unicorns.

10. The first commercially successful climate change company

Prediction number ten – we will see the emergence of the first commercially successful climate change company. In 2020 and beyond, we will likely see the first company that will address climate change. It will have great technology and will have a commercial business model that can scale rapidly.

It could be something like removing plastics from oceans and using that plastic to create highways. I don’t know. Or it might be creating more artificial hair for me, that would be useful, right? Well, there will be a company that will crack the code in terms of making commercially successful climate change technology and that will pave the way for other companies to follow. We will address climate change without taxing everyone to death.

Did I mention 10 predictions? I lied. I’ve got a couple more. What are you going to do? Close the blog? No, you’re going to keep reading because the FOMO is too strong on this one. 

11. The death of Blockchain

Prediction number eleven – the death of Blockchain. Blockchain and its current form will not get massive adoption. There aren’t many use cases. Quite frankly, blockchain is a threat to governments, banks, and other industries. Why would they use it unless it changes? So in most B2B organizations, they will say ‘no, thank you’ to blockchain in its current form until there are better use cases of blockchain. Sorry, blockchain!

12. Subscription business model

Prediction number twelve – a subscription business model. In 2020 and beyond, many industries will turn to the subscription business model. So it’s not just what happens in tech. In tech, we’ve already seen software as a service (SaaS) become the prevalent subscription business model. But now we will see other industries taking up the subscription business model.

Case in point, the launch of Disney plus. Disney plus recently launched and now it has 10 million subscriptions. Expect subscription products to become the norm in other industries – it could be financial services, consumer goods, manufacturing, and many others.

13. Healthcare

Prediction number thirteen – healthcare. In 2020 we will finally see the introduction of a competitive health plan outside of the traditional insurance companies and the government. It will likely come from a diamond Bezos buffet and associates. It will include competitive pricing and it’s likely that it will come with tracking of your health through devices and tracking off your grocery bill. So the more you exercise, the healthier you eat, the lower is your insurance premium. Will it be a reality? Well, a guy can dream, right?

Those were the top predictions for 2020 and beyond across tech, politics, and other macro trends. Please subscribe to get more industry knowledge and leadership videos. Please like and share. And comment, especially if you violently agreed or violently disagreed with me. A happy new year and have a fantastic 2020.

Blog, Career Nation Show, Career strategy

Episode 13: Career Nation show with Don MacLennan

Security is interesting in many ways as it is absolutely necessary for any company, especially companies that are becoming more digital, go undergoing a digital transformation, says Don MacLennan in episode 13 of Career Nation Show.

Here are some highlights from this episode:

Don MacLennan is the SVP of Engineering & Product at Barracuda. And he shares great perspectives on the Tech landscape and shares amazing career advice.
Here are some highlights from this episode:

+ How to develop customer-centricity and customer empathy

+ How subscription business model shift is happening in tech

+ How to find great mentors and be a great mentor

+ How to build and develop skills

+ How security careers are evolving

Career Nation:
Career Nation, welcome back to the Career Nation show. Today, it is a very, very special guest. Today we have SVP of Engineering & Product at Barracuda, Don MacLennan. Don, welcome to the show.

Don MacLennan:
Thanks, Abhijeet. I’m really happy to be here and I’m hyper caffeinated.

Career Nation:
That’s awesome. So am I. So let’s dive into this. This is going to be a super intense session. Don, why don’t you fill us in a little bit about yourself? Sort of your background and your current role at Barracuda.

Don MacLennan:
Sure, yeah. Gosh, I’ve been in the software industry from right out of college, which is over 30 years ago. I would say the simple version of my career is two chapters. The first half of my career was in field operations. So I started in sales, carried a quota for many years. Going into sales management, business development alliances, channels, and so forth. That was about the first 15 years of my career. And a while I was working for a tiny little startup in Boston, I got tapped on the shoulder to move out of sales and into marketing, which at the time felt like kind of a form of failure. But really it was the opening of a door for me. And, that’s informed everything I’ve done since because I soon took over marketing for the startup and product management. Product management has been a common denominator in everything I’ve done since for the last 15 years. And in the more recent past, I’ve had responsibility for leading engineering organizations. For example, I was a startup founder and CEO. And the last couple of roles I’ve led large engineering organizations for established companies like McAfee and now Barracuda networks.

Career Nation:
Oh, that’s wonderful. I love that varied, you know, experience because you’ve gone from sales, marketing, product management channels, entrepreneurship, and now product and engineering. You’re basically seen the whole gamut. That’s fascinating. And I think, in fact it’s probably adds a lot of strengths to your skill set, right? It seems like you’ve been always developing and building on top of your skill set, which is pretty phenomenal.

Don
Well, I appreciate the compliment. I mean, the cynic would say I’m just professionally restless. But, yeah, I do find myself drawing on all these past experiences, these diverse experiences, in the role that I play at my current job, but really all of them.

Career Nation:
Fantastic. Yeah. And Don, you had mentioned you’ve been in software since the start of your career. And, now we are in the world of software where software is delivered as a service SaaS, right? And Cloud. And are we, in your opinion, sort of still sort of early in the innings for SaaS or are we at peak SaaS? What’s your perspective on this?

Don MacLennan:
Probably closer to early headings than peak SaaS, for sure. You know, cause there’s really two transformations that are happening simultaneously and, or maybe a decade of 15 years in, but just getting started. So transformation number one is the form factor, right? By which software is delivered. So it used to be the case that you would install software, you’d put it on your laptop, you’d install it in infrastructure, in a data center. You’d put stuff in your network. In fact, the history of Barracuda is we started as a company where the appliance as a physical form factor was how you bought our product. You might remember us as the airport signage people, right? We were advertising these pieces of equipment that you could buy and so we’ve completely transformed our business as many software companies have where the form factor is no longer installed software or an appliance, it’s running cloud native.
Everything we build from here forward is deployed into public cloud infrastructure. So that’s a massive technology transformation. But the other transformation that’s happening exactly in parallel in lockstep is the business model transformation. You know when I started it was all about selling perpetual software. And each year you might charge 15 or 20% for something called maintenance, which entitled you to bug fixes, product updates, tech support, and the like. That tended to be a very predictable revenue stream. These days, of course with SaaS, the business model has transformed as well into annual subscriptions and code. So customers have a decision point every single year. And in some cases every single month whereby they get to decide. Do I still want to keep this software? Do I still want to invest in the next subscription term? You know, I love, for example, a lot of the thought leadership that’s come out of Zuora in this regard, right? Defining the subscription economy. And so when you ask about are we in the early innings of cloud and SaaS as it relates to this concept of the subscription economy, ah, we’re in an incredibly early innings cause think of all the places that’s yet to arrive.


Careernation:
I mean, you’re absolutely right because, you painted an amazing picture of how the subscription shift has happened in tech, especially in the form factor business model. And you’re absolutely right. I mean, there’s so many other industries where the subscription model is starting to take shape. We see that in media. Disney’s going subscription and we see that in so many other consumer. Our products as well. So you’re absolutely right on. One of the things that sort of comes out of that as you look at SaaS is, you know, in addition to sort of the business model shift is sort of how do we add value to customers continually. And you mentioned that, you know, customers have a choice at the end of the subscription term. They could choose to not renew or renew and companies have to keep adding value to customers. And what’s been your sort of, work around, you know, being customer centric? And I’ve known you for some time and you’ve always been customer centric. You are so focused on understanding what the customer is looking for, and the sort of the articulated and the inarticulate needs of the customer, et cetera. How do we become more customer centric as a person? As a company? Is that like, should we run more surveys? Should we go talk to customers? What’s your perspective on this?


Don MacLennan:
Yeah. Well I think that, those formative years of my career out in the field in front of customers every day having delivered or been part of hundreds of demos, right? You start to get this innate sense of the value of that feedback? I like to think about customer centricity more in terms of customer empathy. So the word I’m using these days is empathy, not centricity because empathy kind of denotes something a little different, you know, maybe a deeper level of understanding. And when I think about what is the approach you take towards developing customer empathy? I think you have to kind of think about it in micro and macro terms. Macro terms would be, Hey, what are these patterns that described your customer base as a whole, right? Micro terms, meaning can I really understand how an individual user of my product does their daily work? And in doing their daily work, what does success look like for them in the job? Don MacLennan: (07:10)
Like how is their boss going to give them a great performance rating and a pay rise if not a promotion at the end of the year. And if I work back from that level of empathy, meaning how are they measuring success in their job, I can start to understand that role my software product plays in helping them achieve it. Sometimes it’s the case, they’re gonna spend, you know, minutes and hours using my product and the given day. It’s so critical to the role. And in some cases, more often than not, my product is a tool for them to get something done, but in the least amount of time possible because they’re busy and they’ve got other stuff to do. Bless you. So the path, in my opinion, to developing customer empathy is to really think of ourselves as carpenters. And good carpenters have tool belts. And carpenters have tool belts where they carry around a lot of tools, right?


CareerNation:
Oh, there’s so many nuggets there Don. That was phenomenal because I, I think the way you describe it was also sort of you’ve got this great tool set and in your tool belt and then you can use the tools that you want. And I love that example of sort of follow the customer where you have a team of people just go in and see what the customer’s doing because so much of that what the customer does is not just with your particular app or your particular technology, but it’s sort of other things and it’s sort of also the context in which the customer does that work. Because the customer might be trying to solve an internal company problem, an external customer problem or you know, trying to gain more process efficiency or what have you, right? So that context becomes super important. So what we’re now doing is we’re taking in a user experience designer and a buddy. And the buddy is often somebody from the engineering team. And we’re asking to go observe a customer as they work in their cube or office for two or three hours, hours at a time. And not even ask them any questions until the end. Just watch them do job. The job, not using our product, but the job. And it’s amazing the kinds of insights you get when you’re in their workplace. Just watching, you start to understand the role of your product in ways you couldn’t have known through these other techniques. So yet another tool. All of it together gives you kind of that maximum context and leads to understanding the customer and empathetic terms.

Career Nation:
Yeah. I love that. And I think you’re so right about failure. And actually, thankfully in Silicon Valley at least we have a culture that celebrates failure a lot of times, which is great. And that actually is very helpful for companies that are trying to innovate, break glass and move forward quickly. And having that inclusiveness for failure is super helpful. Do you have any advice for, executives, managers who are, who would like to encourage their team to innovate? And at the same time there might be a little bit of them failing. And how do you, how can one develop an appetite for a certain level of failure while as we go through our innovation cycles?


Don MacLennan:
Yup. Yup. I have Terry Hicks to thank at McAfee, my former boss, for really bringing this message home. You know, we were doing it before he arrived at McAfee in my tenure. But we probably weren’t doing it at the scale that he encouraged us to do it. And I think it brought all the other disciplines because we were getting really good at quantitative analytics of our products usage. They brought in another dimension to, understanding it. So, I’m a believer.

Career Nation:
That’s awesome. And that’s great because you’re doing all the quant work with analytics and you’re doing the qualitative work and put those together. You got art and the science.
Oh, you got us. You got it.
That’s wonderful. And Don, you’ve been in the security business for some time. And you’re currently leading product and engineering for a major security company. Security is interesting in many ways because in some ways it’s absolutely necessary for any company, especially companies that are becoming more digital, go undergoing digital transformation. They need security, right? And, you know, on one hand, security is required. Most companies have many security products that they buy. And on the other hand, if you look at the talent for security, there is a lot of demand and not enough supply of top talent and so security has been one of the, and based on just feedback that I get in the field is people want to get into the security domain. They want to build a career in security. And if today, let’s say they’re not doing security, but they are generally in tech, what should they look at to get into the security domain? What should be their approach? What you recommend?

Don MacLennan:
Yup. Well, I think the sad fact is the bad guys keep winning and it’s perpetuating the growth of our industry. So, yeah, it is a tremendous career opportunity because security is not going away. And as all things get more digitized, right? Security considerations, just keep on arriving in new ways. I’ll give you a crazy example. We’ve got customers now that are putting all sorts of IOT devices out into the wild, right? Smart everything, smart meters, smart light poles. We’re starting to deploy firewalls, physical firewalls into these devices in little tiny boxes that are, you know, six square inches, 12 square inches. So yeah, I mean security is kind of becoming woven into the fabric of a lot of physical devices beyond what we think about as traditional security, right around networks and applications. So it is the case. It’s a very, very vibrant industry.
It continues to grow because the bad guys are really smart, sadly. And you know, in some respects they keep winning. So, you know, the question about how do you get into the industry, I think there’s times when the domain expertise can be a little bit overstated. You know, if we look to hire a developer, for example, to build a product, they don’t get screened on the basis of whether or not they know the security domain. First and foremost, we’re looking for great developers. And, the security domain is knowable, right? It’s a craft that can be taught. There’s a lot of other attributes about being a great employee, whether you’re a developer or otherwise that are, that can’t be easily be taught, right? There’s these inequalities about you as a person that make you a great team member, that you know, relate to your growth mindset and so on and so forth.
I always look for that and deemphasize the domain expertise given my druthers in terms of, you know, the ranked order of criteria by which to bring somebody into the company. That said, if you’re looking to understand the domain, there’s some really, really good and mature and robust, frameworks out there as it relates to security best practice. So that’s really well understood. There’s a professional certification, called CISSP that’s got a ton of foundational concepts around security. And still very relevant today. There’s a lot of best practice frameworks out there. Cloud Security Alliance has published frameworks. There’s the SSA 16 frameworks, SOC2 Type 1, SOC2 Type 2. You can learn what’s inside of those. They’re basically controls frameworks. There’s ISO 27001 and 27002, which is kind of the mother of all best practice frameworks. There’s the MIT… Sorry, the MITRE att&ck model, which sort of documents how the bad guys can infiltrate on infrastructure and exfiltrate valuable data, right? So all these frameworks are pretty easily understood in sense if you want to put the time into studying them, you can learn the domain.

Career Nation:
That’s so important to learn those frameworks and whether it’s a DDOS attack or some other types of attacks from the bad guys, quite frankly, these types of frameworks would be super useful. So thank you for sharing that because a lot of times people try to figure out and once they sort of know these type of framers, they can get a path towards getting into a security career. And you’re absolutely right. It’s the sort of the whole stack of skills and quite frankly, sort of experience and competencies that are required to become a great professional, not just a security professional. And, you know, one of the things I’ve observed about you, and you’ve talked about that on your blog and in events is this topic of sort of mentorship. And you’ve mentored a ton of people over the years and, do you know one of the questions that people have is like, you know,, how do we get mentors? Like, is there like a signup form somewhere? Should I just barge into your office and say, Hey, can you please be my mentor? Is it like going out on a date? Like what is mentorship? And like how do I sort of get great mentors?


Don MacLennan:
Yeah, yeah, great question. Um, I had, I think I told this story in your presence a few weeks ago where, uh, I was at an eternal conference when I was at McAfee earlier this year. And, um, somebody came up to me, um, probably after I spoke in the panel or something, this young woman came up to me and said, Hey, Don, I really enjoyed your talk and what you have to say. Will you be my mentor? And it was kind of awkward, right? Cause I didn’t otherwise have a relationship with her. Um, but obviously I understood the, her intent, right? She was very hungry and eager to learn. Um, I’ll give a couple of practical suggestions. First is I wouldn’t, um, think of your boss as your mentor, right? Your boss can be an incredibly important person in your professional development, including giving feedback. But there are things that your boss just won’t say or know about you because you’re not going to necessarily reveal your total self to your boss.

Don MacLennan:
There’s a power structure there. And uh, and it has an effect on, uh, the employee, you know, manager dynamic. So mentors can come from elsewhere in company, especially larger companies, right? Because you want a little bit of distance and you want that distance because as a mentee, you want to be vulnerable and you want to be comfortable and you want to be trusting of that individual because the best mentorship relationships are the ones where you’re revealing yourself so as to be able to get that kind of feedback and understanding of return. So if you’re going to find a mentor inside your own company, um, make sure that they’re distant enough from the work you do, that what you say to them, right? Can’t necessarily affect your day to day work. And a good sense, even better mentors are the ones that are not inside your company at all.

Don MacLennan:
So practical suggestion would be think about your former bosses, right? They’re often really good mentors for two reasons, one of which is they come to know you in the workplace. So they’re a source of really good feedback because they do know you and second is you’re not working for them anymore. And so the ability to go be vulnerable and the ability to establish that next level of trust, right? There’s not, there’s no downside to it in the way that you might experience that with somebody that is at your current company. So former bosses in my experience are great mentors. I’ve got two or three mentors that are exactly that, and another one who didn’t come to me that way, but started with a more formal professional relationship and it evolved into mentorship. So maybe that’s my last point. I budget, which is, um, mentors are so seldom the way you start a relationship. It’s an evolution of a relationship that begins on some other basis, whether it’s a boss or a friend and in time can develop into mentorship. And I think that’s an important concept. You can’t kind of rush it or force it.

Career Nation:
Oh, that’s a great, uh, that’s a great way to get into mentorship. Like it could be a boss, it could be a colleague, it can be a friend, and over a period of time that person becomes a mentor. Um, I love that concept and uh, that’s something that quite frankly, I would love to practice as well because I’ve got some former bosses who I ping from time to time. I’d love to, uh, you know, have an ongoing relationship and hopefully they get something out of that relationship as well because it’s not just the mentee, but the mentor also probably gets something out of it. They get to learn a few new things as well.

Career Nation:
Great. Don, this is the part where we shift gears a little bit and we get to know our guest a little bit better. Are you ready for our Favorites Game?

Don MacLennan:
I hope so.

Career Nation:
Good. Well let’s start with this. Let’s start with your favorite app.

Don MacLennan:
Oh man. You know, anyone asks me a favorite, I almost never will give them one answer. You know, it’s like, do you remember the movie High Fidelity? It was about this guy who was like… Yeah, John Cusak… And he owned a record store and he was obsessed with music and then, you know, they would spend all day developing top five lists. And he would never give you the top five records of all time. You’d have to ask the context, right? Like, well, is it, you know, am I at home or I’m on vacation or am I with a girl. And so, you know, I’m going to give you one of those qualified answers. You know, I love Facebook, the app. I don’t love everything about Facebook, the business model, but I love the app. So let me explain it. Somebody at this stage in my career, I’ve come to know a lot of people all around the world.

Don MacLennan:
In my professional life, traveled extensively, worked for multinational companies. I love the fact that I can still maintain a sense of connection to those people through Facebook because otherwise I really don’t know how I would be able to achieve that, right? In practical terms, I can’t call every friend every two or three months to tell them what’s going on in my life. And so that app really does make me feel connected to friends that are in Israel, in the Czech Republic, where I once lived. And people I’ve met in Japan, people in Australia, Canada, you know. It’s really cool for that purpose. Sometimes I have to hold my nose in terms of understanding the business model and some of their other practices. But I do love the app and I’m a regular user of it despite all of those reasons. Slack in the workplace.

Don MacLennan:
I brought Slack to my organization when I was at McAfee. When I showed up at Barracuda a few months ago, I realized that they were heavy users of Slack. So that was a big, happy moment for me. Because it does what it does really really well. Yeah. I think the common theme for me in terms of things I love is app is simplicity, right? You know, they do just enough but not too much. And I think Slack is a good example of that because when you kind of pull that thread of collaboration, you can end up with really complicated applications with a bunch of features that just aren’t useful. They might exist in Slack, but they don’t force themselves on you. You can discover them and activate them. But if you want to use Slack in its most simplest way, right around just messaging, you can do that.

Career Nation:
And you’re right. I mean, even this normal user, if you will, gets a lot of value, not just the power user. So that’s phenomenal. Thank you for sharing that.

Johanna Lyman:
Yes. I actually had one that was on my wall for 10 years before I figured out what it really meant. “I’ve been absolutely terrified every day of my life, but I’ve never let it stop me from doing a single thing” by Georgia O’Keeffe.

Don MacLennan:
I got one last one for you. This is more a place for me nerding out in my personal life. There’s an app called Plane Finder 3D. So where I live in Silicon Valley, a lot of planes go overhead as they’re making their final approach to San Francisco airport. And I’m kind of a plane nerd. I dunno why I like to travel. I’m interested in airplanes. And so when they fly overhead my house, I’ve gotten kind of used to trying to spot what they are like, what, what flight is it, where’s it coming from, what model. And this plane finder app called Plane Finder 3D. It’s literally a 3D representation of that plane on its flight path. So you can kind of see the glide slope and how it descends and when it makes a turn, it’s unbelievable that if 3d application can even function on an, you know, a smartphone, it’s a really cool app.

Career Nation:
Oh, that’s phenomenal. Maybe we can also use that to track the 787 Max Boeing planes.

Don MacLennan:
Yeah, yeah. As in when they might get in the air again.

Career Nation:
Exactly. Don, thank you for sharing that. That was fascinating, especially with the plane part. do you have a favorite quote that you either put up in your office or use or you’d like to see on a billboard somewhere on maybe Highway 101?

Don MacLennan:
Gosh, here’s another one. Like I don’t have a single favorite quote. Maybe the one that comes to mind is, ‘continuous improvement beats delayed perfection’. You know, I often had, have in my organization, you know, some big monumental challenge that we’re trying to overcome. And the first thing I tried to encourage my organization to do is deconstruct the problem, right? What is it that we can do? And 10 successive steps to ultimately find a solution as opposed to trying to figure out how to solve the whole thing at once. Because it’s almost never available to you as a solution. So you’ve got to deconstruct it into some journey. And a lot of times it actually means you’re recognizing the fact that it’s gonna take a little while to deliver that capability. People get infatuated, right? With the idea like, ‘Hey, we only just surged on this, and a month time we’d have this amazing capability’. It’s almost never the case, right? Almost always great capabilities in the form of products take a long time to develop. And so I try to help people understand how you can deconstruct that, maybe do kind of a work back and know that I take 10 discreet steps to actually build that capability.

Career Nation:
I like that Don. Because it not only makes it easier to do bigger things, but it also is sort of creates this compounding effect over time if you’re continuously improving even a little bit every day, your compounding result is much much higher.

Don MacLennan:
That’s the key. You keep at it for a few months or even a year, and those small incremental improvements when you look back in the rear view mirror, like, Holy smokes, things have really changed and it’s hard to sense in the moment. But yeah, that’s almost always the way that I’ve been able to deliver transformative capabilities is exactly that approach.

Career Nation:
Awesome. That’s brilliant. I’m going to, I’m going to probably pinch that in a future meeting.

Don MacLennan:
No worries.

Career Nation:
Don, do you have a favorite book?

Don MacLennan:
Yeah, I guess one of the most, impactful books, in terms of thinking about my career and being a leader, started with a keynote that I saw many, many years ago. I was at an internal leadership kickoff meeting when I was working for RSA security. It was a division of EMC at the time. And there was a keynote speaker, a guy named Marcus Buckingham. And he came on stage and, he’s a really really good public speaker and he basically said, ‘Look, I’m here to tell you that the entire human industry, or the human resources industry is built on a mountain of BS’. So everybody kind of like leaned back and said, ‘Okay, what do you mean by that?’ Because we had some great human resources leaders in the audience. And he goes, ‘the HR industry is built on a false premise, which is that by giving feedback to employees about the ways in which they’re supposed to improve, we’re basically setting them up for failure.

Don MacLennan:
Because if there’s something they don’t know how to do, they’re probably never really going to learn how to do it’. He said, it’s like a conspiracy where we’re just creating these negative reinforcement loops around people. And he said, I’ve done 20 years worth of research into the topic of what makes high performing teams perform well. And the basic findings of this very robust research were twofold. First of which is in every high performing team, every person on the team, is playing a role designed to their strengths. So that all of these innate talents and capabilities they have, that’s the job. They can feel joy, they can feel mastery, and they’re not required to do stuff they don’t actually know how to do. And the other secret ingredient of a very high performing team is that the manager, whether explicitly or implicitly new that that’s how they were supposed to design the team.

Don MacLennan:
That by having all these actors playing highly complimentary roles, that the team could cover all the functional requirements that the team owned, right? But it may be a diverse array of individuals each playing to his or her strengths. And so he went on to write a series of books about this one was called First Break All the Rules. The next was called Now Discover Your Strengths. That just clicked for me. Because I started thinking about my job as a leader and that was to constantly try to discover my teams, innate strengths and constantly try to evolve their role towards one where they only get to play to their strengths. And I’ve never put them in a position of having to do stuff they’re not capable of mastering. So it was a really influential book and talk. Actually I saw the talk first, then I read the books and that was, coming on to 14 years ago.

Career Nation:
Yeah. I mean, Marcus has created an amazing body of work around this and thank you for sharing that. I will make sure that we put that down in the show notes because that’s an amazing resource for anybody to get their hands on. Especially how to find your strengths, et cetera. That’s just invaluable as individuals, as teams, as we formed teams too. Yeah, it is a great work.

Don MacLennan:
One of the ways I apply that before we move on is… So I’ve done these assessments. Every time I have a new member to my team or I show up into a new team, I give them that information. I hand it out. In fact, I went further and I wrote something called The User Guide to Don, which is about a two page document that’s kind of a synthesis of, you know, all of my forms of self awareness and just kind of put myself out there and say, Hey, do you want to get to know me? You know, here’s the road-map. And a lot of it was derived from, some of the assessments that I took, you know, from his books and his body of work.

Career Nation:
Oh, that’s wonderful. And I’m not just do sort of double click on that a little bit.

(28:41)
Have you, have you seen more success in terms of getting more self aware through sort of electronic tools that sort of have the survey based sort of questionnaire and, or have you seen sort of better results through sort of in-person when you actually go sit down with someone and say, ‘Hey, can you share insights about me? Don’t worry about any repercussions. This is sort of a neutral zone. Just give it to me so that I can improve as a individual, as a person, as a professional’. What’s been sort of your go to tool and which one do you prefer?

Don MacLennan: ell, I’ve used both. I definitely rely on these tools where I find value in the assessment. Because there isn’t that vulnerability on the table. You know, sometimes to your point, having that face to face conversation where your soliciting feedback about yourself from somebody else. I can put them in a very uncomfortable position because they may have the feedback to give to you. It doesn’t necessarily mean they’re comfortable giving it. And you know, it comes from the right place in their heart, which is to say, Hey, I don’t want to say something that’s going to hurt this person’s feelings or harm them in any way. Right? So it’s a barrier and it can take time to develop enough trust that someone’s going to share with you that authentic feedback. So, when it happens, it’s magical. I tend to use these tools in addition to try to develop some baseline of self-awareness. I really like a 360 feedback. Because it’s an anonymous process and if you get, you know, 15 or 18 responses from higher ups and subordinates and peer relationships, that collection of feedback tends to reveal some pattern about you, that you might not have known before. So yeah, there’s a time and a place for the tools to the extent you’d get somebody giving you that, you know, face to face authentic feedback, even better, kind of hard to come by in my opinion.

Career Nation:
Awesome. Thanks Don. And shifting to the next question on favorites, what’s your favorite restaurant?

Don MacLennan:
Oh man. I keep going to act to a place called Orens Hummus Shop. There’s a few of them. The original is on University Avenue Palo Alto. There’s another one down in mountain view. I’ve seen a couple of others pop up. I love middle Eastern food and some of the most memorable meals I’ve ever had was when I was traveling to Israel pretty regularly. And hummus and pita bread in Israel is quite different than here. And so Orens is founded by an Israeli ex-pat. And so just, in addition to loving the food, it created for me kind of a connection to these really fond memories of times I traveled in Israel. Food’s really good too.

Career Nation:
Fascinating. Well, we’ll drop a few links there in the notes as well. We’ll probably drive some traffic up to that restaurant.

Don MacLennan:
I have no financial relationship to that. Oh, I guess I do; I’m a paying customer.

Career Nation:
You’re a paying customer, for sure. Don, why don’t we get back to our topic on careers and if you can share some of the Don secret sauce. And what I mean by that is like what are some techniques that you use, on a daily, weekly, monthly basis, quarterly basis when you are doing certain things that you think, you know, you’re, it’s unique to you, you’re, you’re really good at it and I think it would be helpful to share with the audience. Let me just give you some examples. For example, do you have a, do you prepare for big meetings in a certain way or do you have a morning routine or you know, things like that. What would you like to share with the audience?

Don MacLennan:
Yeah, yeah. Actually, preparing for big meetings is a good one. I got some really specific training and mentorship, earlier in my career from a guy named Marcus Oskie who is my a manager at the time. And he described to me as all methodology for trying to arrive at an important decision because most meetings are some meetings at least are about taking a decision. And, it was really helpful the way I described it. Because I said, ‘Look, if you’re going to convene a meeting to take a decision, then that meeting is itself a ceremony’. In other words, you should actually know in advance what the decision is and who’s going to support it and the fact that you have consensus or a majority or whatever. Right? So it’s just a place to formalize a decision that you’ve already worked to create. And they worked back from that and said, okay, well what would need to be true in order for it just to be ceremonial?

Don MacLennan:
Well, you probably have to engage with every single constituent who’s going to be in that meeting. In fact, you might even have to engage with people who are going to inform the point of view of those constituents. Right? And he kind of worked back from that for the whole process of laying the groundwork of how you even get to a consensus space decision. And he sort of helped me understand that. You know, that meeting might be 20 conversations leading up to it in order to be sufficiently prepared. Where I get the outcome I’m expecting or wanting, right? Which is a yes to some, you know, decision I’m advocating for really enlightening.

Career Nation:
Oh, that’s great. And I think that helps, especially when the company is of a certain size and also sort of, I don’t want to say consensus based culture, but at least getting everybody’s viewpoints on the table to actually make a decision to move forward. And that approach is so incredibly valuable because you make sure that you hear every piece of feedback, you bake that feedback into your proposal and that way you’re not only addressing everybody’s concerns or you know, viewpoints, what have you. But you’re actually making a better decision. And, that’s phenomenal. Thank you for sharing that approach.

Don MacLennan:
You’re welcome. You know, to your point though, at the time we were working at a 60 person startup together. So his approach was highly applicable to that environment. You know, I’ve worked for much larger companies at other times in my career where I’d also say it’s got, you know, usefulness, maybe even higher utility. But it was a pretty small company where I watched him do this and he was really effective at it. SoI’m kinda believe that it probably has applicability to any environment in which you work.

Career Nation:
I like it. And it sounds like it’s more collaborative as well. You basically get everybody’s inputs into the process.

Don MacLennan:
That’s right.

Career Nation:
Outstanding. I love that. as we wrap up here, Don, again, thank you so much for your time. Any parting thoughts, parting words of wisdom that you’d like to share with Career Nation? Because we have folks in our audience across the spectrum. We have early in career, later in career, in the middle of their career journey. And mostly are in tech, although there are some non tech folks as well. So anything that you’d like to share as we wrap up?

Don MacLennan:
Yeah. You know, a few parting thoughts. You know, the first of which is you own your career. You know, I’ve often encountered situations in my role as a leader where people look to me to tell them what their career should be. And my response is, you own your career, right? In other words, you own the understanding of where it is you want to go and you’ve gotta be able to articulate it. My job as a leader is to do what I can to enable that to become true. And so I’ll do it through a variety of techniques, you know, including, but not limited to mentorship, right? But, it’s not something you can outsource. You’ve got to have your own sense of purpose and needs and wants. It can take time. You know, some people earlier in their career don’t have a sense of what that looks like and that’s fine.

Don MacLennan:
It’s a job, not a career at that point. Some people have a very clear sense of purpose very early. And of course all of us may go through career transitions from time to time where we start, what we started doing, we don’t want to do anymore. And we’re kind of looking for something else, a pivot point. So I think you’ve got to have that sense of ownership over your career. The folks that I’ve seen succeed, you know, often have a couple of characteristics, you know. The label we put to it as sometimes growth mindset. If I was to double click, I think it takes on a couple of specific behaviors, you know, the first of which is self directed learning, right? Not being told what you need to know, but actually initiating that learning for yourself. I’ll give you a good example because, at one point in my career I began using this as a basis of how to hire people.

Don MacLennan: (36:53)
So we were, I was in the Czech Republic working for a company there. We were trying to hire a new design leader. And we were testing candidates for self directed learning, right? As we were interviewing and we’re asking for examples. So I asked this individual and said, ‘So tell me what you’ve been learning about lately, for the sake of your own professional advancement’. And he said, ‘Oh, well, I’m honoring a finance course right now’. And I’m like, okay, that’s interesting. You’re a design leader. Why are you auditing a finance course? And they said, well, I’m really trying to understand how to speak to executives about the financial value of what my organization does. I want to develop the vocabulary so I can tell them the financial benefit. I’m like, Whoa, that’s a really good answer. And he goes, Oh, I have one more example.

Don MacLennan: (37:35)
I said, okay, what’s that? And he goes, I’m studying ergonomics and physiology. And I’m like, why are you studying ergonomics and physiology? He’s like, well, you know, if I designed a user interface, it’s an interface to a computer. But then there’s a mouse and that mouse is connected to an arm and the arm is connected to a body. So if I really want to know what usability looks like, I have to understand the body that’s using the mouse it’s using the computer. And I was like, Oh my God, I’m blown away by these answers. I love you. And we ended up hiring years by the way, no accident. Right? So that self directed learning really really a key marker for advancement. And the other is global mindset. In other words, somebody who is curious to understand the world around them and appreciates, if not embraces the idea that, you know, from all of this diversity comes different viewpoints.

Don MacLennan: (38:18)
And that’s something to celebrate. That’s something to take into account as you do your work as opposed to kind of only looking for people that are like you. So when I hire, I look for people who have, you know, purposely sought out adventure, maybe lived abroad, studied abroad, worked for multinational companies, traveled. All these are markers for people who are able to pull the best rate from that diversity. That is, you know, the human construct. And I think if you pursue kind of those two patterns, you’re going to find yourself investing in your career, whether you call it your career blueprint or not.

Career Nation: (38:54)
Don, what a great way to wrap up this episode. Self-learning, diversity and being open to diverse thoughts. It’s so important for all of us to do that. And thank you for sharing your wisdom. This has been an incredible episode. And, I thank you again for your time. I know you’re a super busy guy and I appreciate all the wonderful wisdom and not only that, but also candor that goes along with that. Thank you Don so much, and you have great rest of the day.

Don MacLennan: (39:25)
Thanks, Abhijeet. Glad for the opportunity.

Career Nation: (39:28)
Take care.

Don MacLennan: (39:29)
Bye.

Blog, Career Nation Show, Career strategy

Episode 12: Career Nation Show with Johanna Lyman

“Once you find your center, everything becomes quiet. Then you can start observing life unfolding as a rotating pattern around you”, says Maria Kellis, in Episode 11 of Career Nation show.

“The number one indicator of success is the degree of self-awareness and emotional intelligence a person has. Now 85% of people think they’re emotionally intelligent and only 10-15% actually are. So, it’s never too early to become more self-aware. It’s also never too late”, says Johanna Lyman, in Episode 12 of Career Nation show.

Johanna Lyman is a professional speaker, business consultant, entrepreneur, and author. She is a business coach at NexGen Orgs and the president of the Bay Area Chapter of Conscious Capitalism.

In this video, she explains how to become successful by handling failures effectively and shares insights about life, success, failure, wisdom, and career.

Here are some highlights from this episode:

  • How to develop your business?
  • Why emotional intelligence is critical?
  • How to innovate and scale your business faster?
  • Why business should be conscious of their capitalistic tendencies?
  • How to handle failure – at a leam level as well as at an individual level?
  • What is ‘that’ combination of success?
  • What is Pattern Matching, and why is it important?

Career Nation:
Hey Career Nation, welcome back to the show. And today we have a phenomenal guest. She is an author, she’s a business coach at NexGen Orgs. And she’s the president of the Bay Area Chapter of Conscious Capitalism. Please welcome Johanna Lyman to the show. Johanna, welcome to the show.

Johanna Lyman:
Thank you, Abhijeet. Happy to be here.

Career Nation:
This is great. And, you know, you and I have been planning this for a while, so this is super exciting for me. Johanna, why don’t you give us a little bit about yourself and your role in this various organizations?

Johanna Lyman:
Sure. So NextGen Orgs is my company. I founded it in its early version founded it 16 years ago this month. It’s gone through a couple of iterations and it’s been about 40 years that it’s been NextGen Orgs. And we help companies have sustainable profitability and build highly cohesive and productive teams. And then as the board president of Conscious Capitalism, a role that I’ve been in for about six months now, I’ve been involved in the organization for a couple of years. Maybe almost three. And, so Conscious Capitalism is about unleashing the heroic spirit of business. So it’s about business as a force for good in the world, which aligns very much with the work that we do at NexGen Orgs.

Career Nation:
Oh, I love the synergies there. Because on one hand you’re helping businesses as part of NextGen Orgs. And on the other hand, you are working, with Conscious Capitalism to help business and be a force for good. So there’s a lot of intersections there. So why don’t we dive into this a little bit more? What does NextGen Orgs do? Do you guys help startups, established companies and sort of how do you help them?

Johanna Lyman:
Yup. So we work with companies – small, fast growing companies, privately held and we do, there’s four basic things that we do with them. First, we help them understand their values and their purpose and their vision. We help them, with Conscious Communication. So emotional intelligence, how to conflict management. We also help companies actively embrace failure so that they can be wildly innovative and scale faster. And then the fourth thing that we do is we help companies become radically inclusive. And you know, there’s, there’s a strong business case for all of those things, which is why we do them. We put it together and we call it building brave cultures.

Career Nation:
Oh, that’s outstanding. And I can see a lot of companies who would love to take advantage of that because that’s an area as companies are fast growing, culture and improving, sort of teams is an area which is a lot of times overlook. And this is a really interesting area that you’re working in. And as we shift towards sort of Conscious Capitalism and businesses becoming a force for good. It is a, it is such an intriguing topic because on one hand, a lot of companies here in Silicon Valley, they’re trying to grow fast. And in that process they may not be paying attention to being more inclusive or, some of the things that we have going on locally, such as, diversity or housing or gentrification and all those type of things. And, how are you encouraging businesses to be conscious about their capitalistic tendencies? How are you influencing them?

Johanna Lyman:
That’s a great question. It has to start really at the very beginning and it has to start with being the founder or founders being mindful about their values and the values that they want the company to bring into the world. And then once they’re clear on their values, then we can come up with a purpose that is beyond profit. Profit is essential. And studies have shown that actually purpose-driven companies outperform the S&P 500 (Index) by 14 times. So it’s not just a good thing, it’s not just a nice thing to do. It’s really good for business. But then you have to not only have these values and understand what your greater purpose is, but you have to operationalize that. So how would your customers or clients see that you were living your values? See that you’re living the company’s values? How does that show up in how you do business?

Career Nation:
You know, it’s interesting you say that. Because a lot of times people in companies are compensated and incentivized in different ways because, you know, they may be incentivized on sales or product or you know, those type of things. And that includes bonuses and stock options and all of those things. And, having a purpose is great. And many companies have a great purpose and they try to move towards that, but there is also a set of companies who may have a superficial purpose. Their real purpose is to disrupt and other things. So how does that, how does Conscious Capitalism get manifested in companies where, you know, the people are incentivized differently or their purpose may be just a little bit more flimsy, if you will?

Johanna Lyman:
Right. I think that biggest thing that I’ve seen with later stage companies is they might have a purpose. They understand their values when they’re just starting. But then they hit an inflection point, they start scaling and they bring on, you know, 50 more employees and, somehow the purpose and the values gets diluted at that point, if they’re not operationalized. If they’ve got a very clear set of ‘this is how we do things’ and they onboard their new employees to understand that, then it doesn’t get diluted. But that’s such a huge problem that I see all the time.

Career Nation:
Great. And as these companies are growing and they’re trying to innovate, one of the topics you mentioned earlier who was about failure and I know that this, topic is very close to your heart and you’ve written about it online as well. You know, I’ve always struggled to understand the question about failure, whether it’s individual or at a team level. And as we see, especially in tech companies, we are always trying to innovate, push the envelope just a little bit more. And through that, a lot of times there is failure. And failure sometimes is taken as, ‘Oh, here’s something new we learned’ versus sometimes it’s like, ‘Oh, you failed’. That’s why we’re going to move on to a different project. Or you should not be working on these innovative things anymore. So it has got this double-edged, it’s a double edged sword. How do you think we should handle failure? Especially in companies at a team level, at an individual level?

Johanna Lyman:
We have to get comfortable being uncomfortable. Absolutely have to. And there’s stats behind it. Something like 84% of leaders know that innovation is critical to the success of the company. But only 4% of them – this is from a McKinsey study – only 4% of them are actually doing something about it in their strategic plans. And it’s not, so it’s not because they don’t know it’s important. They just don’t know how. And I always like to say, if I could change one thing about our society, I would change the way we educate our kids because we set them up to learn at a very young age that they can’t fail more than 30% of the time. You know, that’s a C-grade, right?

Johanna Lyman:
But in reality, 80 to 90% of startups fail. Like 92% of product innovations fail. Like there is no success at all with out failure first. So, and we like to do it by… (Laughing) We teach the innovation, by playing games. Because it’s fun and people learn 10 times faster when they’re having fun. So we get them. It’s the only way to get comfortable being uncomfortable is to practice.

Career Nation:
Yeah. I love that. And I think you’re so right about failure. And actually, thankfully in Silicon Valley at least we have a culture that celebrates failure a lot of times, which is great. And that actually is very helpful for companies that are trying to innovate, break glass and move forward quickly. And having that inclusiveness for failure is super helpful. Do you have any advice for, executives, managers who are, who would like to encourage their team to innovate? And at the same time there might be a little bit of them failing. And how do you, how can one develop an appetite for a certain level of failure while as we go through our innovation cycles?

Johanna Lyman:
I think there’s a couple things that happen. First of all, they could, you know, do some sort of a team building process that actually gets people together and does like, like a ropes course or something where they get to practice things like this. And it helps to build morale. It helps to build a sense of belonging. And at the end of the day, whether they, whether you say you’ve got a culture of innovation or not, you really don’t have a culture of innovation if you’re not failing a lot, and then learning from it. So what’s the key learning here and how can, like, where’s the point of failure and how can we, like if we start there just before that, how can we do it better next time? The other thing is that, you know, the reason besides the school thing, the reason we’re so afraid of failing is because we’re afraid of getting kicked out of the tribe, right?

Johanna Lyman:
The psychological safety and belonging is so crucial. And so, and we’re hardwired to kind of sort for sameness and to keep ourselves safe, right? So we have to kind of retrain the amygdala with part of the limbic system to notice that when we fail, we don’t die. Cause the limbic system is hardwired to keep us safe and safe means alive. And the only thing it knows for sure we can survive are things that we’ve already survived. So kind of fatal flaw and the operating system there. But so I always tell my clients to like, celebrate the crap out of your failure and like say, ‘Oh my God, I just did something for the first time and I didn’t die’.

Career Nation:
That is awesome. You know that is so interesting because, it reminds me that failure is not just at the team level, could also be personal and it’s okay to fail and there’s a lot of learning there and no, you’re not going to get kicked out of the tribe and no, you’re not gonna die. And it’s gonna make you stronger and more alerted and it will help you to, quite frankly, propel in the right direction if you’re not able to open some doors. That means you’re actually, destined to open a different door, which is more success. And so have you seen any, examples or ways, to deal with personal failure. Especially in careers and especially for Career Nation where we have people who are trying different things or trying different types of jobs or domains and what have you. And they’re kind of going through their careers and trying to navigate the best they can. Anything that you can share about sort of dealing with personal failure?

Johanna Lyman:
Yes – don’t take it personally. So you have to separate the action with the Dewar. Okay. So if I’ve just, you know, been fired from a job, for example, I have to separate out like these are the actions or inactions that caused me to get fired and they’re not who I am as a human. If they are who you are as a human, then maybe it’s time to get some coaching.

Career Nation:
Yeah, that’s a great point to separate yourself from the actions because your actions don’t always represent who you are. That’s a great hack. I love it. Johannah why don’t we shift gears a little bit and learn a little bit more about you. And we’ll get into our Favorites Game, which is we ask you some favorite questions, rapid fire, and you are expected to answer them and tell us why that thing is your favorite. Johanna are you ready?

Johanna Lyman:
Ready as I’ll ever be.

Career Nation:
Awesome. Uh, why don’t we start with what is your favorite app?

Johanna Lyman:
My favorite app, this is going to sound silly, but it’s a cribbage app because I love to play cribbage and my husband doesn’t have the patience to learn how. So it’s the only way I get to play enough.

Career Nation:
Oh, very cool. That’s great. You get to keep your hobby. That’s a good thing. What is your favorite book? And this could be a fiction or nonfiction book.

Johanna Lyman:
That is such a hard question for someone like me who reads an average of at least two or three books a week. But I will say that probably the book that most impacted me was Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand.

Career Nation:
Oh, very cool. Oh, I can definitely draw some connection points there to Conscious Capitalism and, yeah, that’s awesome. How about a favorite quote? Do you have a favorite quote that you would like to put on your computer, on your wall or just like as a mental tattoo?

Johanna Lyman:
Yes. I actually had one that was on my wall for 10 years before I figured out what it really meant. “I’ve been absolutely terrified every day of my life, but I’ve never let it stop me from doing a single thing” by Georgia O’Keeffe.

Career Nation:
Powerful. I love that. And then also kind of relates to failure because yes, some of those things might result in failure, but that’s the way it is. Failure and obstacle is the way to move forward. On a different note, what is your favorite restaurant?

Johanna Lyman:
Oh, anything that can make me a good New England lobster roll.

Career Nation:
Ooh, nice.

Johanna Lyman:
There is actually a place in Burlingame, I think. I believe it’s called The New England Lobster Company. And I will take a drive up from San Jose on a pretty regular basis just to get my fix.

Career Nation:
Oh, that is so cool. I will check it out and put that in the show notes. Johanna, now that we know you a little bit more, we would love to figure out what’s sort of the secret sauce behind Johanna Lyman’s, career success. So here’s the part where we’re trying to understand what are your strategies and approaches towards your career? Do you have a morning routine? Do you prep yourself? What are some of the strategies that have really helped you become successful in your career?

Johanna Lyman:
Yeah, there’s a combination. Yes, I have a morning routine. Before I turn on my computer or open my phone, I have, like a devotional reading that I do and then a short meditation, a journal on a regular basis so that I can capture my own insights and my own learnings. And then I am a connector. So when I meet a new person, and I think you’re like this too, cause we were kind of going back and forth when we first met. When I first meet somebody, my first thought is, how can I help you? How can I help you get what you’re looking for? And I think that is not as rare now as it was when I first started in corporate. But it’s still somewhat unusual and all the go givers that I’ve ever met have all been successful. Have you read that book, The Go-Giver?

Career Nation:
I have not, but I read Adam Grant’s Give and Take. Similar topic, but I haven’t read The Go-Givers. That is a very interesting title because it’s different that’s not go getters, but go givers. I love that title.

Johanna Lyman:
It is just a parable. It’s just a really short read. I forget who the author is, but…

Career Nation:
Awesome. Johanna, as you help companies through NextGen Orgs and through Conscious Capitalism, there might be many important projects, meetings. Tell us, how do you prepare for a big meeting or prepare for a big project? What sort of preparedness and sort of how do you help your stakeholders, your clients become successful? What sort of preparedness and what mechanisms do you use that you would like to share with Career Nation?

Johanna Lyman:
So to prepare for like a big meeting or a big team delivery, something like that, I take my morning practice and I double it. And the other thing that I do, to be honest with you is I know that when I can tap into the wisdom in the room, I have the ability to – it’s kind of a strange and unique gift, I love it – to tune into any organism, whether it’s an individual or team or an entire organization. And I can sort of, in a way, it’s hard to describe, but I can see what wants to emerge and I can see the highest potential that’s in the room in front of me. And so when I can tune into that and just let myself be guided to speak to what I can see. Pretty magical stuff happens.

Career Nation:
That is super magical. And that is almost like you are, you’re sensing the room, you’re sensing the people, you’re sensing the individuals. Are there any cues that you look for? Is this like body language or do you see like people are bringing up certain topics, so tell us a little bit more. Give us a clue into your super powers.

Johanna Lyman:
Yeah, so I think, I am highly intuitive, so there’s that. But I think, cause I’ve been trying to unpack this for myself for about 10 years. Like how do I do that thing? I think I am really good at pattern matching and it happens so fast that it occurs as intuition, but really I’m just, I’m paying attention to tiny little cues. It might be how someone looks at another person in the room and body language for sure is part of it. And just like, just having a sense of the energy in the room and being able to speak to that.

Career Nation:
That is fascinating. I would love to develop something like that. Although you are like, several, several levels, higher in terms of pattern matching and sensing this. Is there a way someone like me who’s a novice and let’s say understanding patterns, et cetera, develop this like is this like a having a lot of different types of experiences and then trying to figure out patterns because I played a bit bit, for example, mental models and I’ve tried to figure out, okay, is this situation, can I apply this type of a mental model? Like for example, the parade or rule 80, 20, for example. Right? So things like that. So those mental models. But I’d love to understand a little bit more about pattern matching and it seems like to match patterns first I should know patterns and identify patterns. So tell us a little bit more. What’s sort of behind is, what’s sort of the method to the madness, if you will?

Johanna Lyman:
Oh, so… I think the secret is presence. So the more present you are, the more emotionally intelligent you are, the more you have positive mindsets, I think the better you’ll get at this kind of rapid, fast pattern matching.

Career Nation:
Yeah. And so the presence aspect is so important. And in a world where we are overloaded with our digital signals emanating from all these devices, how does one develop presence? Is there a, it sounds like a quality that is, you have some stillness at the same time you are actively engaged. And so how have you experienced that presence? Whether it’s your presence that you have developed over a period of time you’ve seen others exhibit and demonstrate presence?

Johanna Lyman:
Yeah. first of all, it’s learnable. Everything is figureoutable, right? It really has to do with developing emotional intelligence. So developing your self awareness first and foremost. So that’s why I start my mornings the way I do. To have those moments of silence and connecting with myself. And then once you’ve got a good handle on the self-awareness, then you can get into like self management and then social awareness and relationship management. So those are the four aspects of emotional intelligence. So, it’s really just like how you get to Carnegie hall practice, practice, practice.

Career Nation:
Yeah. That’s a great, and overnight success has been 20 years in the making as they say.

Johanna Lyman:
Oh yeah, for sure. 16 years and counting for me.

Career Nation:
That is awesome. Johanna this has been a phenomenal conversation and as we start to wrap up here what would you like to share with Career Nation? And we have an audience that is sort of early in career, in the middle of their career, or late in career across. So we have got a broad spectrum of audience. What would you like to share with them in terms of guidance and insights based on your experiences?

Johanna Lyman:
The number one indicator of success is the degree of self awareness and emotional intelligence a person has. Now 85% of people think they’re emotionally intelligent and only 10-15% actually are. So it’s never too early to become more self aware. It’s also never too late.

Career Nation:
I love it. And I think one of the distinctions there also, Johanna, is the sort of ‘the know it all’ versus ‘the learn it all’. And so it sounds like 85% of people think that they’re emotionally intelligent and actually only 15% are. That’s a stark difference between the know it all and the learn it all right there.

Johanna Lyman:
Right. And I think, you know, humility is such a misunderstood and important quality in leaders. And that’s the idea that I’m not better than anyone, but I’m also not worse than anyone. So it’s, you know, treating everyone with respect.

Career Nation:
You’re so right. And that’s the, that’s the least thing anybody can do for anyone else – be kind, be respectful. And it doesn’t matter, even if you’re, working intensely in a startup or in a large tech company or anywhere else, it doesn’t matter. But treating others the way, they should be treated is so important. Johanna, thank you so much. This has been a wonderful conversation. We got so much out of it. Thank you for your time. And also we wish you all the very best for NextGen Orgs and for Conscious Capitalism.

Johanna Lyman:
Thank you. Thank you. And folks can find me on LinkedIn. It is Johanna Lyman. I come up pretty fast. And also if you’re curious, check out ccbayarea.org for conscious capitalism. We have online and in person events and, NextGenOrgs.com is my website.

Career Nation:
Wonderful. Johanna, thank you so much.

Johanna Lyman:
My pleasure, Abhijeet. All right. Take good care.

Blog, Career Nation Show, Career strategy

Episode 11: Career Nation Show with Maria Kellis

“Once you find your center, everything becomes quiet. Then you can start observing life unfolding as a rotating pattern around you”, says Maria Kellis, in Episode 11 of Career Nation show.

Maria Kellis is a researcher, business consultant, entrepreneur, author, and teacher. A triple major from MIT, she runs a consulting firm that combines business and spirituality. In this video, she talks about going “From Burned Out to Fired Up!” and shares insights about life, meditation, wisdom, and career.

Here are some highlights from this episode:

> The influence of Taoism in her life

> Why books are considered to be the window to wisdom

> Why is the connection between spirituality and business is important

> How to address stress and burnout

> The importance of finding your center

> How to find the balance between work and connection

> What are the symptoms of stress and burnout

> What is your zone of genius

Read more about Greg Fox’s insights on Tech alliances

Career Nation: Career Nation, welcome to yet another episode of the Career Nation show. Today’s guest, she’s a double graduate from MIT. She’s a researcher, a business consultant and entrepreneur and author and a teacher. And she’s here to share with us some of her insight around careers.

Career Nation: Especially around how to go from being burned out to get fired up. Please welcome Maria Kellis. Maria, welcome to the show.

Maria Kellis: Well, thank you for having me.

Career Nation: Maria. We would love to know you a little bit better and to just start off, we’re going to dive into your favorite things. Are you ready for a quick fire round of your favorite things?

Maria Kellis: Okay, sure. Let’s do that.

Career Nation: Awesome. So Maria, what is your favorite app?

Maria Kellis: I have to say that, there’s two of them. One is GPS because it changed my life. And the second thing is audio books. I go everywhere listening to audio books and I never get bored and I travel a lot. So I love listening to audio books when I travel. And sometimes when I want to go through it quickly, I can just speeds up. So this is my favorite apps these days, but I have so many, Oh my God, the, I have a virtual company. So we use Slack, we use Trello, we use, a lot of the productivity tools of the G-suite. I find that we live in an incredible time when we can work around the world. Like I have people in 10 countries working for me and it seems that we’re all in the same room. We meet once a week together and you know, for a team meeting and that’s it. You know, the rest of the time we never see each other. I don’t think I’ve met, well I haven’t met most of the people that work for me.

Career Nation: Oh, isn’t that incredible? You’re right. We truly live in incredible times and all of these applications help us bring people, ideas, concepts, work so much closer. so thank you for that. let’s move to your favorite quote.

Maria Kellis: I love The Tao. So a lot of the quotes from The Tao. And, if you change the way you look at things, the way you think, the, the things you look at change. I like this idea that as we change how we look at the world, in fact, it is the world that is changing. So to me it shifts the perspective and that I’m fascinated by this idea.

Career Nation: Oh, I love that quote. And I think a lot of masters, from that, from that point have actually used that quote. Dr. Wayne Dyer being one of them, one of my favorites as well.

Maria Kellis: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. He’s one of my favorite, like I love his interpretation of The Tao. In fact, I get some teachings of meditation very often.

Career Nation: Totally. Maria, let’s go and know about your favorite book.

Maria Kellis: I read so many books. I find that there’s so much wisdom to be had. These days I’m reading a book called the Stealing Fire that, is really talking about the idea of ecstasy is this idea of being in the flow that is very much related to my work. And I, I’m totally fascinated, but you know, next week I’ll have a new favorite. I love reading. I love connecting the, this days, my book, the, the books that I love are books about ideas or spirituality or practices or you know, business that certainly, I think that there’s so much knowledge to be shared that I believe in reading enough. You know, the, the more we read, the more we connect.

Career Nation: Totally. And with someone from your background can also connect so many dots. As you absorb more knowledge, you can actually connect even more dots. So I totally understand your passion for books and your appetite for books.

Maria Kellis:  When I was little kid, I didn’t want to sleep. I literally didn’t want to sleep because I thought that this world is so amazing, but I didn’t want to miss one minute. And, I would read so much every night. I will not sleep until my dad’s alarm ring, you know, because that will get in trouble if you found that I didn’t, you know, didn’t sleep. So, and then he was always surprised I will never get up in the morning easily right. But of course that’s because I only slept one hour or one hour. I remember there was a time I ran like three or four books per day, per day, but there’s, and then I went through a period where I didn’t really want to read anymore. And in the last few years I started reading again. And I find that, the, the books that people write, it’s like concentrated version of wisdom. So I am very grateful to all the authors who spend all their time writing.

Career Nation: Oh, it’s certainly a labor of love and we get to sort of get the distilled knowledge in books. Maria, do you have a favorite restaurant?

Maria Kellis: Well, I live around the world, so it’s not necessarily easy me to say I have a favorite restaurant. I love very comfy food. When I was sick and we’ll talk about that, but I used to be very, very sick and, and so I’ve learned to, heal myself with what I ate. And so very, very healthy foods, salads, juicy. Those are my favorites. So sometimes my favorite restaurants are just simply like the grocery store or the actual local farm market or organic market.

Career Nation: I love it. Staying healthy and getting the nutrition that’d be, want to fuel up our bodies is so important. So I totally agree with that. Maria, your career journey is fascinating. You’re a double grad from MIT and entrepreneur.

Maria Kellis: Triple. I know.

Career Nation: Good god. Triple grad from MIT, entrepreneur, you have been working in the corporate world and now you are building bridges and connections between spirituality and business. Can you share a little bit about how you came to this place? What and how did you come to this unique vantage point where you’re helping so many people today?

Maria Kellis: I did not choose this path. It chose me. So in 2004, I, I had to, you know, you can call it the burnout, like all systems down. I ended up in a wheelchair in the hospital, very sick. Everything, everything was wrong and the doctors were not giving me much hope. They were telling me that it was going to be the rest of my life and I just simply did not agree with that idea. And I made a decision, a very powerful decision back there that, I needed to, I needed a miracle and that’s what I set out to find. And, and because I tried everything, I tried everything, you know, doctors, alternative doctors, medicine, alternative medicine. And finally, the one thing that worked at the time, I was under a severe amounts of pain, incredible pain

Maria Kellis:  and, the medicine wasn’t working like all the painkillers in the market. You know, I hadn’t, the only thing I didn’t want to have was, morphine because I knew this was for terminal patients, but I was in so much pain and nothing was working. And I remember they gave me meditation, about thinking of pain, pain as fire and thinking of water coming in and taking out the fire, but it worked. So I was like, Ooh, whatever that is, I’m doing more of that. And, that, that’s how I started that kind of really I started and it was funny because in the beginning I didn’t understand the cause of meditation at all. I have other things to do, like, you know, and, and as soon as they sitting and doing nothing, I’m like that. That’s not what I do.

Maria Kellis: But maybe on day five of meditating I had with a call, going through a warm hall. So suddenly the lights started coming from everywhere and I started going up and down really fast and, and I came over to this other place where I felt I was floating and I saw the world in a different way. And I was like, wow, okay. I always thought that it was really weird stuff, but after this happened, I couldn’t believe that, you know, I, I’m like, I must be missing something. There’s something else. And that, that kept me interested for years in trying to understand what happened and also how to replicate it. I have to say that I had some incredible, very very deep, mystical experiences. And this is what was the beginning of this journey for me. I, and, and now when I make people, I tend to work with very smart people because I’m very smart.

Maria Kellis: I tend to attract really smart people. And I love that doubt. I love their doubt that they’re facing. And they’re like, well, you know, I don’t know. I’m really skeptical and I’m like, you know what you should be. And so what I concentrate on with people is to help them have very fast and first experience. So, because once you have an experience, you know, and once, you know, you can’t really argue with what just happened. Otherwise it’s just very theoretical and not much use for theory, right? So I believe that for each and every one of us, it’s really our experience that matters. The energy world is real, I believe, because I experienced it. I live it. I see it every day. I, yeah, I feel it. I, I connect with it. And it is my hope, my dream to make that world part of everyday life visible for everyone. It’s not, it’s not for some saints. And, and gurus somewhere in the Himalayas that spend their life meditating. It’s available to everyone and it doesn’t require that much if we do that.

Career Nation: Maria, you, you went through this personal transformation and you were caught in a really difficult scenario and your health was failing and you found that yes, you had to take medic medical help, but really what helped you the most was meditation. And from that point you had several personal experiences, real experiences, and you said, okay, this is something that could help other people. And so…

Maria Kellis: It’s not just meditation, I shouldn’t say just meditation videos, part of it. Go ahead.

Career Nation: Oh yeah. So it’s plus meditation. And so the, when, when we talk about sort of the real world, we talk about sort of business and entrepreneurship and we have to deal with things like customers and business models and products and services. How does, how can spirituality intuition play a role as in, isn’t spirituality different than I’m looking at a sales pipeline or I’m looking at certain metrics or what have you. Isn’t that different? Like how do you, how do you connect these two worlds?

Maria Kellis: You know, for the longest time I had a real job while I was doing this on the side. And you’ll say, you’ll think that being in a wheelchair sounds really horrible. But I actually spent eight years between 2004 and 2008, 2012 where I had accident after accident, disease after disease. I fell through a roof. I, you know, twice. I had you know, like I had severe burns, like, you know, incredible. Everything that was a freak accident that could happen, happened to me. And to me, this was just the beginning because the first time I had the miracle of walking, I,

Maria Kellis: you know, in my mind I was like, okay, that’s really cool. But then the second time I was like, okay, that’s really interesting happen again. And it’s almost like my life led me to, you know, because I think like an engineer real well, how do you make it repeatable? How do we make it real? How do you make these things happen again and again? And I started teaching people like back in, you know, well, almost from the beginning. Because, you know, people were coming and finding it and saying, how do you do it? Like even at the hospital that were like, we don’t understand, you’re the happiest person here. Please tell us how. They invited me to teach people back in the hospital. And I was still a patient at the time. But,

Maria Kellis: I saw it working and in the real world I saw real applications. I saw the changes. I, in 2008 I went back to Greece. I was in California when I got sick, but eventually I went back to Greece because, you know, to be with my pants and

Maria Kellis: I worked for the government and I could not influence, but somehow the projects that I was assigned that were voted unanimously, right? And the first time I saw that, I was like, okay, by the way if you’re familiar with politics, that never happens. Yeah. And then so, okay, well, so you can actually use this not just for, health, not just for, you know, feeling better. Not having, not just for relaxing, but you can actually literally use for business. I started testing it. I started saying, you know, well, what if you did this? I, you know, everything I teach, it wasn’t developed overnight. It was like years and years of testing and seeing what works and what doesn’t and how to apply because we think, you know, or I used to think that this world is linear, that time starts and keeps moving. When I started seeing the world, this multidimensional and going through the dimensions, then I started realizing that nothing is as it seems.

Maria Kellis: And, and so things like sales is the easiest thing to influence because as you change your magnetism, literally you attract more. And by attracting more, you attract more customers. So suddenly you’ll become this number one salesperson. And they’re like, how did you do that? Like when I started this company, my little company, I went from zero to 20,000 per month. You know, just like that because I said, Hey, 20,000 sounds like a good number. It never occurred to me that it’s difficult. It’s just like, why not? Right? and I have seen this happen again and again, people who just aren’t companies or start a new practice or start a, and, and they want to attract opportunities. They are able to find those opportunities because of what the envision because of setting, being passion, using the systems that, you know, that I teach and you know, it happens again and again.

Maria Kellis: So sales in fact is the easiest thing to, to attract. It’s not the… Think of it as being magnetic. We are all magnets and the more magnetic you are, if you really know who you are, if you define yourself, your track, the opportunities, the circumstances, the events, the resources to you. So instead of thinking of you having to go there, think of everything happens here. So instead of saying, I need to find customers who are saying they need to find me because what I offer to them is what they want. So it works.

Career Nation: That’s a, that’s a very revealing insight, Maria. And that’s an interesting way to look at it. Where

Career Nation: one can start to manifest the things that one would like to see happen. And that, you know, I’m sure there’s many techniques that allow us to do that. One of the areas that is becoming pretty interesting and critical in Silicon, not just in Silicon Valley but generally in the corporate world is around mental health and many professionals faced burnout. They’re stressed, they are burnt out. from your vantage point, how do you see this? Like what kind of effects does it have on professionals? How should they look at it from, from a standpoint of how do I get better?

Maria Kellis: I, I would say that I’m an expert in that because I did not only face burnout myself, back in college. But in fact, I believe that the reason I got sick is because I kept burning out and kept pushing and pushing and pushing to the point where my body just completely shut down. So the reason I say that is because it’s very easy to speak about things when we haven’t lived through them. But when we lived through them, that’s when we really understand.

Career Nation: Yeah. But that’s when you have real experience that he can talk about it and share it with others.

Maria Kellis: I believe that if we keep pushing we are taught that the harder we push, the more we do, the grant that we call, then we will succeed. So if things don’t go our way and we keep working harder, pushing harder and doing more because that’s what we’re taught. And I believe that there’s a balance. I am not saying sit and meditate and wait and like, you know, everything will come to you. Like unfortunately it doesn’t work that way. You need both. You need both the pushing energy and the flowing energy.

Career Nation: Oh come on Maria. I was really looking forward to just meditating all day and all of these things would happen to me.

Maria Kellis: Well you can, and I have in periods of my life where I have done that, it still requires work. Like no work. That becomes your meditation. You know, if you meditate 12 hours a day and then everything will work really well in your own life. But also you don’t care about many things. But I, you know, I, I did go through this phase in my life where I was just like a superhero meditator. Let’s do like an Olympic run of meditation. Like let’s do 12 hour a day for like month, two months. And those are incredible times, right? At the same time though, there, there is almost what, what is it that you want? If it wants spiritual development, then meditate. If you want a business and money, then meditating may not necessarily be the best thing to do. You might want to think about what is the actual business that I have.

Maria Kellis: And I’m not saying, I’m not saying that meditation will not help. In fact, once you know what you want, you remember, know what you want and you let go of the things that you don’t want, then you can really put a lot of gratitude and appreciation and love and have this feeling, this desire, and it will bring everything you want to you. So if, if you want to have a really successful business, the way to do it is not to save. Well, I’m just going to sit around and just, you know, meditate all day. You actually start a business and then become successful. Right? It’s all like, Oh, well somebody will come and offer a business to me and yes, it’s fun. Right? People won’t come and give you opportunities, but if you want to choose your opportunities, then you get to start by putting them together.

Career Nation: Yeah, absolutely. And so when we think about work and we think about sort of stress and burnout being burned out, is there a, is there, are there symptoms that we should watch out for that tell us or can tell someone that I’m burned out versus I’m just like little bit stressed. So is there like a set of symptoms that, are sort of a tell that yes, this person is burned out and needs help?

Maria Kellis: And, it’s a really interesting question. What’s the difference between burnout and stress? Because a lot of stress will lead to burnout. and there, there’s psychological effects. Like for example, you will be more irritable, and people who have like shorter attention span. The ideas will not come as easily. Memory problems. Those are all telltales, right? People who have burnout don’t know that they’re burned out until something very dramatic happens. Because they’re so used to running that they missed the fact that suddenly their performance went down, you know? So instead of like realizing, Oh my God, I needed to slow down and get out of there, they keep working even harder until they literally break something, their systems. And, the, the reason is that we’re not used to thinking that taking care of ourselves, sleeping, is, is important.

Maria Kellis: If, if for example, somebody has chronic sleep issues, a lot of stress, like waking up with, Oh, I can’t breathe right? Those are usually signs of a really high stress level that may or may not be visible, but your body definitely feels sick. And that can also be, you know, so, so mental, like emotional and, and literally physical symptoms. So you’ll, you’ll see it in, you know, like your adrenaline levels or your, liver or, toxicity in your body. So those are all like, they’re all related. We’re, we’re in a system where a complete system, so body, mind and spirit and a, and all of those are related.

Career Nation: And so that’s very interesting, Maria. So that are these signs that we can look out for, and are these, how do we deal with this? Like we see stress levels building up and we see ourselves maybe at the verge, at the very edge of burnout or starting to burn out.

Career Nation: Are there,

Career Nation: are there things that we could do to distress ourselves or address this burnout? Are there things that we could do daily or weekly or is there, is there a way out of that?

Maria Kellis: Oh, absolutely absolutely. I won’t be teaching this if I felt that was hopeless scenario. Oh my God. The first thing to do is to realize that you have value. You have found the, even if you do nothing. And that, I know it sounds very simple, but when you realize that your value is not in what you produce, but in who you are, so it’s not your results that determine your success, but it’s who you are. Then you realize that pushing harder when you are not able to push anymore. That is the opposite of what you should do. So putting yourself in priority, allowing yourself to take a break is truly important in this. The second thing is that when you, and I’ll be, you know, I’m giving a gift to the, to the people who are listening to us.

Maria Kellis: If they go to mariakellis.com/extraordinary, there’s a series of four meditation that I found is the, is for the busy professionals, so got to relax them in two minutes, 30 seconds if that. So that’s all you have to prepare for meeting a lot of stress goes into and how to really relax into state. Those tools seem simple and sometimes more is just more. And I believe that very, very simple things, very, very simple changes. Breathing is a truly remarkable thing we can do. When you find yourself stressing out, stop and take three breaths. That’s it.

Maria Kellis: Three breaths, one.

Maria Kellis: And one more. I bet you feel a little bit better now. And all he did was breathe.

Career Nation: Absolutely. And thank you for sharing the link and we’ll drop the link in the show notes here as well, Maria. Because I think having these techniques are sort of these essential tools we can use on a daily basis and it probably doesn’t even require any special equipment or anything like that, right? It could just be whatever you are, you can be wearing whatever clothing, et cetera, be in any environment and you should be able to do these, right?

Maria Kellis: Yeah. I created those from my students. Like, I remember there was one of my students, she, she was going to a meeting and she was like, I need to prepare for a meeting. I have seven minutes. And I said, okay, let’s create seven minute meditation. Right? And I recorded this. And suddenly she started using it for every meeting. And then she’s like, Oh my God, my life changed. So I started giving it to people and they were like, how did that happen? You know, you know, like I don’t go to meetings without listening to this meditation anymore and it’s seven minutes to prepare. So you can like literally arrive seven minutes early and listen to it in the car, go to the meeting and you’re there. But

Maria Kellis: remember if you think you’re a doer, so if you, if you go there to prove to people that you’re smarter, that you are good. You know, you have no connection, so you’re replaceable. But if you go there centered as yourself, bring the best version of yourself, you connect with people and people just want to work with you. People just want to give the best selves. And, and that changes the game. So I, I truly believe that those,

Maria Kellis: well, whatever, and I tell people, whatever you need, tell me I’ll create a new tool. It’s really easy for me. It’s what I do, but I find that the problems that we think we have are so much less. If we just take a moment to step back and find your center. I often use this analogy when I talk about clearing, but if you think of the hurricane, right? There’s an eye in the hurricane so it goes crazy, crazy, crazy. But right in the center is complete calm. So I always say it, just find yourself in a center, find your center, state center and everything becomes quiet and life rotates around you. You see it, you observe it, you see the craziness happening. But you don’t have to be part of the craziness floating around and falling and crushing on things. You’re just at the center and whenever you want something, just reach out, grab and then the senior center and then something else. So I like that. All right. And then stay in your center. And that centering, that peaceful moment allows you to be in peace. When people meet me, they always say, Oh, I feel so much peace when I’m around you. I’m like, yeah, just be in your center. That’s what that piece is. It’s not very far away. Just come back back to you. Somebody said once, how far away from home do you need to go in order to find your way home? So we’ll come home and you just come back.

Career Nation: Oh I really like that exercise Maria. And I love that example because it kind of puts, puts one oneself in the center as a calm person who can basically deal with anything and allows us to, as you said, create the best version of ourselves. And it’s also, I think somewhere as you were talking about it, I also felt a sense of, you know, you know, creating a sense of, you know, creating more value for others, being more useful to others because we were creating best versions of ourselves. let me, let me ask you a, just a quick follow up on that because you mentioned about people going to meetings or high stress environments, et cetera. A lot of times people, they may be stressed, but they want to get into a zone of confidence and going from, you know, a high stress to a lower stress and getting rid of stress through meditation’s definitely helps. How can one move to a zone of higher confidence? Is there? How can one think about confidence as a way to think about, you know, I will really want to be effective. I really want to help others. I want to be, you know, I want to contribute in this meeting or this, you know, presentation or what have you. How can we think about sort of building that confidence?

Maria Kellis: It actually goes hand in hand. I, I talk about something being your zone. Who’s genius I have, you know, because of who I am, I’ve always been interested in what makes people become a tune is what makes it for a genius idea. When do you have those ideas that are, you’re like, wow, this was a genius when I was in, I remember when I was in grad school, like the, you know, typical MIT late night project and I remember there was this moment where everything was quiet cause it was probably four in the morning. And, I was at the lab creating something and then I just looked at the ceiling and then I saw a glass and I said, Oh, transplant case for it. It was at the time Palm pilots and and I was like, Oh the trust bank case. Then you see what is in there. Right. And that’s how me just like that. Then the next day my professor was like, Oh you should patent that. By the way. I didn’t get the patent cause like I, I was too busy doing other things in retrospect I wish I had bothered, but at the time I didn’t bother to get that in mind.

Maria Kellis: But how did that idea come? Right. I think that our zone of genius is much related to ourselves. We are unique in who we are. Very, very unique and our creativity, our genius comes in that place of calm. So the one of my zones of genius is to do like a thousand things, right? So the being in this high stress environment, being in this chaos actually, it’s really exciting to me and I, that’s my, that is my genius. Like making order out of chaos. So in that highest stress, it’s not about stepping away from the stress and saying, Oh no, I can handle this. I’m just going to go meditate. Buh-bye. Right? It’s being present, completely present in the moment and in that moment, finding that zone of genius, that, that moment where you’re in the flow, where you’re no longer thinking how bad what you’re doing, but you’re in that moment doing it because that is extraordinary.

Maria Kellis: Some people find the zone of genius when they’re running by does the running, they, they have that, they’re in that song or they find it as they’re creating or you can find it through music. Whatever works for each person is different. But it’s that moment when you stop being you, that you become aware of everything. You become connected. You look around and you see ideas and you find, you find yourself finding those ideas. That part is not different from who you are. Just be who you are. So if I have one advice for everybody, just be you. That’s enough, right? But then that’s harder to do than just to say, but yes. So in this high pressure environment and in this place where you need to find those ideas where they, you know, maybe your promotion or your, you know, depends on the amazing ideas that you have, where the pattern is that you have, finding that place of calm is the way to do it.

Career Nation: Maria, that’s it. That’s a brilliant way to put it because quite frankly more and more we are rewarded for our innovation and concepts rather than actual hard labor. And in this new world, finding your center and finding your zone of genius is a fantastic tool to help us sort of unlock opportunities that, you know, might be inside us we may already have the answers, but we haven’t quite found our zone of genius and found the center. and we are sort of being, pushed into this chaotic world. But, but centering ourselves would allow us to take advantage of that opportunity. And, I totally, I totally subscribe to that view and I agree with that. Maria, as we wrap up here, what advice do you have for Career Nation? Our audiences, people that are early in career, middle of their career, late career, like all kinds of folks all across the world. What message, what pieces of advice would you like to share with them?

Maria Kellis: Well, it’s lucky that it happens to be the same thing for everybody. Be yourself and expand a little bit on that. So you… There’s 7 billion people in the world and each one of us is unique. Our uniqueness is what is the best thing we can do. So if you’re just starting out, be unique seems very scary because you’re like, well, but I should fit in because otherwise nobody will hire me. Or, but you know, if you’re just starting out being yourself, we’ll allow you to find the best job and in fact we’ll give you opportunities that are actually aligned with you. So maybe, maybe it feels scary to be you, especially when you’re starting, but the opportunities you’ve come, well, you know, even if you started at a lower level, it doesn’t matter because very faster you would be at the high level. If you’re in the middle of your career, being yourself allows you to know that, you know, I have that experience that I have and in the future I know where I want to go.

Maria Kellis:  So I’m just literally at that stage where I’m about to take off. Remember the colicky stick about to take off. So, I’m in a very exciting time. And so being yourself allows you to really be that trajectory where you’re not faking it. You really be you and the opportunities you’re creating, the path you’re creating is truly aligned with who you want to be. So it doesn’t feel like you’re working. I mean, my team, remember I have people in, you know, many countries around the world. The reason I picked my team is because they’re in different time zones. So this way, like at 24 hours a day, there’s somebody awake. And working with them and I’m like, don’t you ever sleep? Of course. But I love my job so much. I don’t want to, you know, like I have an idea three in the morning I’m working and it doesn’t feel like, Oh no, I’m working.

Maria Kellis:  I’m like, Oh wow, this is such a great time for me to work on this because nobody is going to call me right now. and, and of course if you’re at the end of your career, being yourself is really what, what you should do because that is the point where, you know, you’ve gone through the basics. You have what you know you can do and being yourself brings them an extra home that makes you interesting. You’re, you’re no longer part of the crowd, but you stand out and when you stand out, that’s really when you succeed.

Career Nation: Maria, that is just a fascinating insight. Being yourself allows you to bring your unique value to the world and quite frankly, whether you’re early career, middle career or late career, it doesn’t matter. You can actually be successful just by being yourself and showing up in the best version of yourself. Maria, thank you so much for making the time. we’ll make sure to, share the links and the show notes. mariakellis.com/extraordinary to get your meditation tools and be ready to beat stress, beat burnout. Maria, thank you so much for joining us. We wish you all the very best and have a wonderful rest of the day.

Maria Kellis: Thank you for having me. It was a pleasure. And, lots of love to everyone.

Career Nation:  Thank you.

Career tiger, Gregory Fox
Blog, Career Nation Show, Career strategy

Episode 9: Career Nation Show with Gregory Fox

Gregory Fox is a Technology Alliances leader, former CMO, Advisor, Keynote Speaker, and a LinkedIn Power Profile.

He is currently the General Manager of the WorkSpan Networking & Communications business.

In this video, he shares his insights around Tech alliances:

  • Why partnering is critical for any company to succeed in today’s world.
  • Evolution of alliances and ecosystems
  • What kind of career opportunities are available in the Alliances and Partner space.
  • How LinkedIn helps with networking and career opportunities.
  • Touchy topic: Trade war between the US and China, Huawei, etc
  • Last but not least: his favorite app, favorite quote, fav book, and fav restaurant

Read more about Greg Fox’s insights on Tech alliances

Career Nation: Hey Career Nation. Welcome back to the show. Today, we have a very special guest. He has been a leader in major tech companies. He is a LinkedIn power profile, and he’s also worked internationally and is recently transitioned from large tech to SAAS startups. Please welcome Greg Fox. Greg, welcome to the show.

Greg Fox: Abhijeet, great to be here. Great to be with you and Career Nation. It’s a real privilege and pleasure to be with you. Thank you.

Career Nation: Fantastic. Greg, why don’t we dive into your career journey, which is like you’ve done so many different things. Give us a thumbnail, give us a… kind of paint a picture for us. How has been your career journey thus far?

Greg Fox: Absolutely. So I started in computer science. I really was fascinated by computer science, started… that was my major in college, but… so I learned how to program on the 68,000 assembly for the Macintosh and developed WordPerfect for Mac, which was an amazing product. But then I felt like I didn’t want to be stuck in a pigeonhole into software development or software engineering. I was really intrigued by economics and political science. So actually my major shifted to economics with a minor in political science and Spanish actually. Eventually I got my masters, my MBA at the Marriott School at Brigham Young University. Then following that I joined Compaq Computer in Houston, Texas in product management working for the CEO. Now I didn’t work directly for the CEO, but this is when Eckard Pfeiffer was the CEO of Compaq Computer.

Greg Fox: Then about three or four years, they’ve made a transition to Novell. This was when Eric Schmidt was the CEO of Novell. I was really interested in partnering, how do partners go to market together for companies as they build products, how do they take them to market through partners. I was director partner marketing at Novell for a few years. Then my friend introduced me to this great company called Cisco systems. I knew a lot about the iconic John Chambers who was a CEO, their alliances and corporate business development group was growing and expanding. They needed someone to come in and look at their enterprise business and also in how to better partner with enterprise companies. And so I was… I became CMO with the Alliance Marketing Organization and then did a few roles in channels, and so forth for about 13 years with Cisco.

Greg Fox: Just an amazing time in a great company, an era in working with John Chambers and other great leaders there. And then, interestingly Citrix really was trying to look at how do they do their ISV partner program. And so I was introduced to Citrix just down the street in Santa Clara. Joined and led the ISV partner program for about three years. And then my journey took a path to China. I was introduced to Huawei through the Association of Strategic Alliance Professionals, which I was an advisory board member, a member of the board of directors. Their executives we’re investigating alliances and ecosystems and trying to figure out how do they formalize a program. And so I was introduced to them. They asked me if I’d be willing to relocate to China, to Shenzhen. And sure enough I came, led the strategic alliances organization for a couple of years, then transitioned into corporate marketing and brand strategy.

Greg Fox: And then WorkSpan. I was always looking at WorkSpan as a potential platform for how you better operationalize partners and alliances. So I was introduced to WorkSpan while I was at Huawei, was really intrigued by the business model and was introduced to some of their executives. And sure enough the timing was right for me to make a move back to the US after about three and a half years in China and WorkSpan hired me to come initially to look after the Alliance ACEs community. But then my role has expanded to really look at kind of a general management role, looking at our communications, and networking business, but also VP of alliances because we have a partner program. But also still looking after the Alliance Aces community at WorkSpan. It’s always been a dream of mine to join a startup, and I didn’t do it early on in my career, but I’m doing it late in my career, and I’m really happy to be at WorkSpan today.

Career Nation: Oh, that’s fantastic. And it’s great to hear the transition from being at Compaq, product management into alliances, partnerships at Cisco, Novell, Citrix, Huawei and now at WorkSpan, which is sort of like super exciting and working in a familiar space, which is partnership and alliances. Let me ask you a question on partnership and alliances and then we’ll go to WorkSpan. Traditionally partners are thought of as resellers, “Hey, I’m going to sell through the channel.” And they’ve had that reseller role over a period of time. They’ve also become a sort of value-added partners and they basically create solutions on top of sort of vendor technologies, and now you’ve got alliances. So tell us a little bit about this world of partners and alliances. Is it like everybody gives each other a group hug or is like… what happens in partners and alliances?

Greg Fox: Well, it’s interesting that… No company goes to market alone, I would say, right? Either you’re kind of building products yourselves, you’re acquiring companies to fill the gaps, or you need to partner with other companies to compliment your offers in terms of how you serve customers. So no companies are going to market alone there, you have to work with partners of all different types, whether it’s a system integrator or a channel partner or a cloud provider that really sort of compliment your entire go to market or route to market to be able to serve those customers. Research has shown that companies that adopt this, ecosystem model actually grow faster than companies that don’t, and they’re more profitable and they do business better and they serve customers better.

Greg Fox: So it’s not just about the reseller channel relationship, it’s about the holistic partnering model. Working with partners across the value chain to be able to better serve customers and being able to orchestrate that motion with those partners is critical for a company to really be successful in the partnering world. It can be… most partners fail. Partnerships fail. There are those companies that do it well. Really see the tangible ROI and great results in terms of customer satisfaction, being able to develop and bring solutions faster to market. Being able to really show alliance contribution to sales, opportunities and sales pursuits, et cetera. So I think that even though some of the research says these are hard and difficult companies that do it well and are able to see the tangible benefits

Career Nation: Yup. And that’s great. And so Greg, so there’s a lot of value that gets created through channel partnerships, alliances, they help to scale from a sales standpoint as well as create more value for customers. And that’s great. I mean, it creates a really good go to market. And so that’s the partnership and alliances sort of world or domain. How is WorkSpan working in this space? What is it trying to do? How is it trying to create value in this space?

Greg Fox: Yup. So what we say at WorkSpan is that we’re kind of completely re-imagining how companies go to market together. So for the first time with we call this WorkSpan Ecosystem Cloud and this is a new category. Ecosystem Cloud has been recognized as a new category in the market, by Gartner by others. And so, for the first time companies can now with their partners, build with, market with, and sell with, and they can grow their business and create abundance together in a single secure cloud-based network. So, that’s kind of the value proposition that WorkSpan offers. And so there’s… traditionally companies have had their own sort of ways in which they partner their own processes. They look at… they may be using spreadsheets or emails to exchange information with one another.

Greg Fox: They can’t track performance with those partners. Usually that happens at the year-end when they’re trying to do a QBR or business review. Developing a joint solution often takes six to nine months. Deal registration is like a black box, joint planning is a long exercise. Joint execution in the field is very hard and difficult. Getting the sales teams aligned around incentives and motions is important. And so a lot of these companies are using traditional tools and they have to do this manually through spreadsheets. Partners have their process. We may have our own process, but now with WorkSpan, you’re able to, operationalize and have a single shared system of record that can be used by their partners in the ecosystems.

Greg Fox: Giving them joint visibility to the projects that they’re managing, to be able to ideate on joint solutions, collaborate on joint opportunities, even pre pipeline opportunities before they’re accepted in the field by sales. It integrates well with existing PRM tools and also CRM tools. And so this single kind of system of record allows companies to better manage those motions with their partners in terms of how they serve customers.

Career Nation: Great. It sounds like the evolution of sort of partner management and partner space in terms of how do you define solutions, market them, sell them together, and it sounds like it will certainly provide a lot of acceleration and efficiency in this space. From a career nation standpoint, Greg, what are sort of the career opportunities in this space as you look at the evolution of channels and partnerships and alliances, what type of careers are coming up in this area?

Greg Fox: There’s a lot of different careers I would say. There may be an alliance manager that’s managing a single relationship for a company or someone that manages, the solution portfolio with the business units and a partner, a set of partners could be someone that would manage the marketing campaigns, or the marketing development funds in terms of how they execute and use those funds to accelerate, sales opportunities in the field. It could be someone that manages an overall portfolio of partners within a program for a company. It could be someone that’s in operations, right? Someone needs to operationalize these motions with their partners, keep track and measure and report on success and report, et cetera. So the operational aspect, is really important.

Greg Fox: And then I would say, companies like with WorkSpan, we have a network success team that actually helps implement. So you need sort of implementers of solutions like Ecosystem Cloud to help companies get really see that time to value realized over 60 to 90 days to help them get up and running to help them overcome change management or implement new kinds of tools or capabilities in their organizations. So sometimes that’s a little bit complex and there’s a little bit of resistance to change, but those kinds of careers, I would say a really… I think in ecosystems and alliances, this is going to continue to be sort of a thriving business, and the career opportunities are endless. In fact on our Alliance Aces Community, which we host, we actually post a lot of the jobs that alliance managers, we may be interested in, and the different roles from different companies in the tech industry are featured there. And so-

Career Nation: Oh, absolutely. That’s great. And that’s fantastic to hear because as technology becomes more interoperable, you’ve got more API’s, more sort of companies and vendors sort of coming together. For example, Microsoft has made a 180 degree in terms of how to work with other companies in an architecture that will be heterogeneous across may be an enterprise or so. So it’s fantastic to hear there are so many career opportunities in the space. Let me shift gears a little bit about sort of partners and alliances and go into a sort of customer value. And so as you look at go to the market alliance has partnerships and all of these things sort of come to a head in terms of how do we create customer value. Tell us a little bit more about how do you see customer value being created, especially as you work with customers and you take a kind of the vendor or the company’s a technology and then you take partner’s capabilities, put those things together, create value. How do you see value getting created for customers?

Greg Fox: Yeah, I think… you asked a little bit about going to market.

Career Nation: Yup.

Greg Fox: You look at go to market. I think it’s around, how do you have like this game plan for reaching and serving the right customers, in the right markets, through the right channels, with the right value proposition. It’s kind of a long-winded answer for go to market, but also I think it’s around creating those powerful high-quality customer experiences, I would say. But then customer value, right? If you look at customer value, it’s more about that perception of what a product or service is worth to a customer versus the possible alternatives. And worth means, whether the customer feels that they receive the benefits or services over what they paid, right? Are they realizing incremental, benefits or services over what their perception of what they paid, I think is really important.

Greg Fox: So for example, at WorkSpan, we have a network success team. So we really focused on customer value because if the customer purchases ecosystem cloud and is the deploying it, for a joint solution or with a set of partners, they really need to see incremental value quickly. And so we have a network success team that is assigned to the customer that helps them implement that particular use case or use cases, trains them on the platform and then enables the team that will be using it so that they can quickly use it, incorporate into their kind of daily workflow.

Greg Fox: And so that change management, that barrier to use is really lowered. So they can see that, that value creation or through faster-delivering solutions that are faster, perfectly introduced, a pipeline is accelerated, joint wins or customers wins are achieved faster and that they’re there and that they’re working in more of in a one motion kind of aspect. So that network-

Career Nation: Absolutely.

Greg Fox: It is really, is really critical. I believe.

Career Nation: Yeah, that’s great. And it was really great to hear about customer value, and the benefited drives for the customer, creates an ROI based on their cost, and it creates incremental value on top of what the customer was experiencing earlier, creates more delightful customer experiences. That’s fantastic. So thank you for those insights.

Greg Fox: Sure.

Career Nation: And are there any war stories that you’d like to share? Anything that comes to mind in terms of customer value or go to market?

Greg Fox: So I’ll just give you an example. I used to do a lot of… I still do a lot of public speaking at different events, but this was a business week conference that I was attending representing Cisco. Pretty high profile, and I was speaking on sort of this, the art of compete and collaborate as it related to the Cisco HP alliance. Okay. It was a great alliance, hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue to us, more to them. I was asked, and this was about, how we better serve our customers and how do we create value together as an alliance. And I was asked if that, I was willing to admit that sometimes alliances fail because we had actually, we had sort of transitioned the alliance from a really cooperative, not a lot of overlap.

Greg Fox: But then as we made acquisitions is HP made acquisitions, we had this ongoing overlap between the two companies. And so I said… they interpreted that I said that yeah, sometimes alliances fail and so they associated that. They said, “For the first time we’ve now see that an executive is willing to admit that alliances fail.” But what I should have said was, is that sometimes it’s appropriate to exit in the alliance when the competitive overlap outweighs the collaboration benefits. So my comments were taken a little bit out of context. The headline was there, referencing our highly successful HP alliance. PR was up in arms. We had to issue a revision to my comments, to make sure that our customers would continue to realize the value of the Cisco HP alliance. And so-

Career Nation: Wow.

Greg Fox: Yeah. It was a, it was a pretty good headline. They wanted a really good headline to attach to someone that would be controversial. But even if the headline says that an executive is willing to admit that alliances fail, but in the body it said sometimes it may be necessary to exit in alliance. So they took it a little bit out of context, but that was… we had to do some damage control with HP and also with our PR firm and then reassure customers that we were still doing things as normal. So a little bit of a challenge, but we got through it just fine.

Career Nation: Yeah, absolutely. And sometimes these challenges brings people closer together and creates better partnerships, and sometimes you have to go through the dip.

Greg Fox: Yes, absolutely.

Career Nation: That’s a great story right there, Greg. Thank you.

Greg Fox: You’re welcome.

Career Nation: Why don’t we shift gears one more time and get into a favorites game-

Greg Fox: Now. Sure.

Career Nation: and would love to know a little bit more about you, Greg here.

Greg Fox: Yes.

Career Nation: In this favorite game. So we’re going to ask you what’s your favorite thing and why? And we’ll start with your favorite app.

Greg Fox: Okay. I was going to tell you… can I tell you something else that’s my favorite and advanced?

Career Nation: Yeah. Absolutely.

Greg Fox: That my favorite game or my favorite thing to do is play golf. I’m an avid golfer. I think, if you look at some of the great golfers over time, like Bobby Jones, who was an amateur his whole life really was kind of the, even the founder of the Grand Slam of Augusta National in the Masters Tournament. Pretty amazing. I’ve just been an avid golfer my entire life and just loved the game. And Bobby Jones said, “Competitive golf has played mainly on a five and a half inch course. The space between your ears. And so, no round is the same. Each course is unique and amazing, et cetera. But my favorite… I’ll get to my favorite app.

Greg Fox: My favorite app. It’s pretty simple. I love LinkedIn. I’m an avid LinkedIn user. I think the ability to connect and collaborate and network, and engage in meaningful conversations, with professionals across the spectrum is pretty amazing, and it’s allowed us, and me personally to sort of extend my network… Every new job that I have secured has been through my network on LinkedIn and through past relationships. So with LinkedIn you’re able to explore partnering opportunities, learn new skills, keep track of the latest trends. I think you can share your voice and your point of view and allow others to react to it. I think it’s an amazing platform, and I love participating in LinkedIn.

Career Nation: Oh absolutely. And I really do think that LinkedIn has created an unbelievable networking opportunity for all of us. And quite frankly, it’s an indispensable tool now. Like as part of your profession, you just need to have LinkedIn, and it doesn’t matter if you’re in sales or operations, it does not matter. Everybody needs to be on LinkedIn.

Greg Fox: Absolutely. It’s critical I think, a company and to an individual success in their career. No question.

Career Nation: Absolutely.

Greg Fox: Yup.

Career Nation: Good. Well, we’ll go to the next favorites. And this one is about your favorite book.

Greg Fox: Yes. I thought a little bit about this. I’m a big Stephen R. Covey fan. Actually I grew up in Provo, Utah where Steven R. Covey lived, and I grew up with some of his kids and his children.

Career Nation: Oh, very cool.

Greg Fox: And so I was really intrigued by, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I think, if you look about the book talks a lot about the effectiveness and of that balance of how do you obtain desirable results with caring for that, which produces those results. And he talks a little bit about, there’s like three categories of the seven habits around independence, moving from dependence to dependence, that self-mastery and then interdependence, working with others, and then that art of continual improvement, right? In both the personal, interpersonal spheres of influence. So I really like Covey’s seven habits. I’ve tried to incorporate some of those habits in my own life, and it’s been really helpful for me, in my personal relationships with family and friends, but also in my career in the broader realm.

Career Nation: Yeah, it’s a must have for anyone’s personal library.

Greg Fox: Yes.

Career Nation: And definitely recommend it as well.

Greg Fox: Yup.

Career Nation: Moving onto the next favorites category, Greg, do you have a quote that you like, personally you put it up on your wall or your closet or you would like to see it on a billboard on Highway One O One or pick your favorite freeway minus 680, but for other reasons?

Greg Fox: Absolutely. One O One is better. Yes. So there’s a couple of quotes. Let me give you two. One is from Steve Jobs, we all know who Steve Jobs is. He says, “Focus means saying no to the hundred other good things.” I really like that, right? There’s so many good things you can pursue and that are maybe deserving of your attention and energy and investment that really focus on doing some things really well. I think it’s really critical, and I really like… I’m a big actually Helen Keller fan. I really admire her life and just sort of the challenges that she faced and what she overcame to really contribute and to be a force for good in society.

Greg Fox: She said that, “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired and success achieved.” So we all face trials, we all face challenges, even people that you think are highly successful, everyone goes through challenging circumstances and trials is how do you best overcome those challenges and trials, how they strengthen your character and your perseverance and how do you still be inspired and achieve success I think is really, really, really important. So I really like, what Helen Keller said and just her own personal example of that.

Career Nation: Yeah, absolutely. And that is a super deep, Greg-

Greg Fox: It’s a little bit deep-

Career Nation: And I love that. I love your commentary on that, which is, everyone goes through dips and valleys and how you emerge from that and how you pull yourself up and actually emerge as a confident person, as ambitious as someone who wants to create value for others and all of those good things. But going through the depth it doesn’t feel that good, but once he emerges from it, it actually feels much better.

Greg Fox: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Career Nation: Great. Do you have a favorite restaurant?

Greg Fox: I’ve got a couple. I love fast food In-N-Out Burger as an iconic just go-to place for me. But then there’s a great little sort of restaurant in my hometown in Provo, Utah called Dolce Vita. It’s an Italian family-owned business and just the food is made with such care and authenticity and it’s family-owned. My wife and I have developed personal relationships with the owners there and we go there often to just for a nice dinner and really a good standby for just enjoying great Italian fare.

Career Nation: Oh, that sounds really good.

Greg Fox: And if you asked me about my favorite drink, I would say diet Coke. Just like… John Chambers was… I think he’s still an avid diet Coke drinker. I call it the breakfast of champions. I do love a Diet Coke, a couple a day. It helps get me through the day, but I think it’s a good fuel to helping.

Career Nation: That’s awesome. Is there a certain caffeine level that you aspire to every day?

Greg Fox: I’ve tried to lower my caffeine sort of intake over time. I used to be a little bit higher on the caffeine scale, but now it’s lower. I’m a little bit more balanced on that, but I still like it a couple of times a day.

Career Nation: I like to indulge. I like it.

Greg Fox: Yes.

Career Nation: Greg. As you look at your career journey, are there some strategies and approaches that have helped you? And when you think of it, like for example, it could be your morning routine, or it could be the way you prepare for certain things. Like if when you look back, are there things that have really helped you that you would like to share with Career Nation?

Greg Fox: Sure. Couple of things. I always say, always prepare for the unexpected if you can, because things don’t always happen the way you expect them to. Give yourself the opportunity to act on something even as it appears real time. That’s kind of the way the Huawei opportunity came to me is an opportunity came and presented itself. I was prepared to make a decision quickly on it and acted on it. Just kind of going on the opportunity, but also the, what I felt like was a good next phase in my career. So just always be kind of present around, prepare for the unexpected, and then when those opportunities present itself, be able to act on that.

Greg Fox: Couple of other things I would say is I think personal I’m always… I really value personal relationships. They’re really matter. So, being deeply loyal to friends, I care about the wellbeing of others and how do they achieve success. So I’m always available. I try to be available to someone in need. Never be too busy that you can’t help someone who needs something in the moment. Some things you just can’t put off, you have to address immediately if the opportunity is there and you feel like you need to act. I think face to face meetings really matter. The ability to connect, collaborate and build mutual trust in a real time is really important, I would say. I also love the energy of the office, especially in the startup, everyone’s working together. Sometimes you we can walk all over ourselves and get in each other’s way.

Greg Fox: But I really like that we’re working collaboratively, getting projects done, doing things that you don’t expect to do when it may not be your role or job to do, but then also still needing that quiet solitude time to be able to think clearly and be creative I think is important. And then I would say be a mentor. Be willing to share advice to someone in their own career, helping them overcome a challenge or a personal situation. One of my big attributes is hire interns. Hire interns who are hungry for experience, give them tough projects and they will amaze you. I hired an intern from the local Mountain View High School here in the Bay Area, Kavya Shankar, she went on to Harvard, is just an amazing leader. I think she’s working in investment banking now and she created a social media marketing plan at Cisco for me at the time when social media marketing was really up and coming.

Greg Fox: We really needed a solid strategy. I gave her the assignment and she just blew this project out of the water, like in McKinsey, like kind of deliverable and really help us apply social media marketing into our digital strategy. And then I would say, yeah, just give back, right? Be able to volunteer on non-profits or other organizations where you can add value and help others who are aspiring to be business leaders. Help them realize the potential and help them fulfill their dreams. I would say that’s a few areas of advice that I would offer.

Career Nation: Oh, that’s great. That’s a lot of nuggets there. Greg we’ll have to-

Greg Fox: Yes it is.

Career Nation: unpack that a little bit. One follow up question to that I have when you have like a big meeting, a big presentation, how do you prepare? Like is there… you’re about to present to a big partner, new alliance that’s going to come up or is there a method to the madness? Do you go through some homework? Tell us a little bit about sort of the secret sauce of Greg Fox.

Greg Fox: Sure. I always tried to understand who the audience is, who want be presenting to, what are their core business challenges, what are their core top of mind issues, right? I always try map whatever I present and prepare in advance so that they… so it really resonates and articulates with their care abouts and what they need to hear. I do a lot of just research, kind of market research and then also just do a lot of discussions with people that have to weigh in or provide content into a big presentation where I’m dependent upon their contribution to make it meaningful. And I do a lot of rehearsals as well. Kind of talking through the talk track with colleagues, even with some mentors or peers to make sure that it resonates and that the talk flow is good.

Greg Fox: Then I try to think about what are some potential objections that the customer or the recipient may have and how to overcome those objections with and… but also trying to lead us to some tangible outcomes, and the next steps that are mutually beneficial for us and for them. And so that’s kind of the way I look at a big presentation, prepare well, have your data intact, your talking points intact, know who your audience is and then rehearse and practice. And then even though there may be unexpected outcomes or things that come out during the presentation, if you’re prepared in that manner, it can usually go pretty well. And then have a supporting staff that surround you to help you be successful in the moment that you deliver the presentation.

Career Nation: Awesome.

Greg Fox: Yeah.

Career Nation: I love how your team of prepare for the unexpected tied so nicely in with how to prepare for big presentations. I love those points, especially about when we get into sort of the talk track. I also loved your point about objections. Like how can we better anticipate objections of your customers or partners and have a response ready? One of my mentors used to tell me that, “You don’t need to answer every question, but you definitely need to respond to every question,” and so that has definitely helped. I love your topic of tangible outcomes. It’s very important. Otherwise, you can just have a presentation, but what comes out of it is questionable.

Greg Fox: Yes.

Career Nation: That’s a great point. Love it.

Greg Fox: Good, good. Glad it was useful.

Career Nation: Yup. A little while ago you mentioned about Huawei and I wanted to sort of get your perspective on what’s going on with China. So you worked in China and you worked with Huawei. Currently, we see we’ve got, between the Trump administration and Beijing, there is trade war tariffs, accusations of security issues using Huawei equipment, et cetera. So how is that playing out in your opinion? What’s sort of your perspective on this whole thing?

Greg Fox: Yup, great question. I’d have to say my three and a half years at Huawei were some of the very best moments of my career. It was magical in a lot of ways. Going to China, living there amongst the Chinese people, embracing the culture, understanding how they do business and then just seeing that sort of that commitment to excellence and that drive to succeed was amazing. I think on the US, China relationship front, there’s definitely, there’s this kind of race for technology, technological leadership. If you look at 5G Thomas driving, it’s a bit, a little bit controversial. First off, let me just say, I don’t think there should be any artificial barriers to trade or doing business.

Greg Fox: It’s best if trust and collaboration and fairness can exist that benefits all societies. But I think if you look at the role that technology plays, plays a huge role in the like GDP of nations. And so there’s this race to develop these emerging technologies to help raise the level of competitiveness, but also the standard of living in nations. Because I think there’s a direct link of investments in ICT to an increase in the GDP of countries. I’ll get to your question in a second. But if you look at these, the digital economy is growing faster than the regular economy and that’s all fueled through data center, cloud, video, big data, mobility, 5G, IOT and AI, and this 5G, it’s ushering in a new wave of mobile connectivity, which allows people to connect to data experiences and people in ways that they never thought possible.

Greg Fox: And so, that is the foundation of things like remote surgery, IOT accessories, improved drone capabilities, autonomous driving, et cetera. And these lightning fast speeds and the ability to power these new technologies, a new augmented and virtual reality experiences are pretty amazing. So there’s this competitiveness in the industry between China and the US as to who can more quickly deliver the capabilities and the promises that 5G offer. And so that’s why I see where we see a lot of the tension between US and China relations is that who is best equipped to be able to offer the promise of 5G because whoever leads in 5G will likely dominate some of the… realize a lot of the economic benefits associated with that. With that said, I think, it’s that balancing act, right?

Greg Fox: Trump has said, we don’t want the US to fall behind other nations like China in the effort to develop and roll out this technology. Then there’s this ongoing concern the government has about… they talk about cybersecurity or unsecured networks, some of the customer data compromised, are there back doors to the government. I would say, in my work, in all the work that I’ve done at Huawei and then in the industry, I have not seen any tangible evidence that there are these backdoors or cybersecurity risks related to Chinese technology manufacturers including Huawei, and that, I think this is just… it’s a race for developing the technology more quickly than the other to try to gain an advantage over one another to be able to reap the economic rewards associated with that.

Greg Fox: I’m hopeful that there will be a resolution that companies can choose the best technology options that they have available, that the networks are secure, that there aren’t these undermining kinds of policies or compromising of customer data that could be used by foreign governments, for their own advantage. And so I’m optimistic about where this is at today, but I think there’s still a lot of work to be done in terms of building better ties, building better relationships, building better trust between nations. And I hope that results in ultimately better experiences and better outcomes and prosperity for customers that adopt and see and realize the applications related to these technologies.

Career Nation: Yeah, absolutely. And I hope so too that we get back to sort of normalcy because whether it’s you as business or Chinese businesses, we all want a more predictable and a more stable business environment. Do you business, innovate and create value. So I totally, totally get it. So thank you for that commentary. I know it’s a controversial topic, but I appreciate you providing those insights, especially from your vantage point.

Greg Fox: Yeah, my pleasure.

Career Nation: Awesome. Hey, Greg, as we wrap up our episode here, are there any key messages that you would like to share with Career Nation? Anything, any major takeaways as they sort of think about their career development, whether they’re early in career or later in career? What should they think about? What is your sort of parting message for them?

Greg Fox: Well, thank you. I would say continue to invest in your personal skills and competencies. I’m kind of at the stage where I’m a little bit later in my career, but I’ve actually continued to invest in my own kind of personal career development. I just recently completed a Kellogg School, Digital Marketing Strategies, Data Automation and AI and Analytics course. And I’m engaged in a MIT Sloan online executive education course on IOT and the business implications and opportunities. I would say continue to invest in your own personal skills, your personal development because I think you are personally responsible for your own development and your own career. Even though you may have leaders and mentors around you that would advise you, you may have career opportunities within an existing company or opportunity outside. Ultimately you are responsible for your own career path, your own opportunities that will come to you.

Greg Fox: I would say also, find ways to share your experience with others. When I was at Huawei, we had new employee orientation. And so, people that were coming from outside of China had a hard time adapting to the local culture, the local aspects that were unique to Huawei but also China. So I helped, based on my experience, I was able to present how to quickly adapt to the Huawei environment as part of the Huawei University, the helping others better acclimated and have better experiences to, and learn from my pain points in my failings that I experienced. So I think always find ways to share your experience with others. Be open to sharing your career advice, be a mentor for those around you. I think as you give back to others and you serve and help others succeed, you naturally received more rewards yourself.

Career Nation: For sure. It’s the law of karma.

Greg Fox: It’s the law of karma. I think helping others achieve success will lead to your own, personal benefit and personal advantage and never lose sight of that. I think if you’re on, you’re inwardly focused more just concerned about yourself. You may find some advancements in career, but ultimately I don’t think you get to where you need to or where the potential lies unless you give back and serve others in a meaningful way.

Career Nation: Oh, that’s so wonderful. What a great to end this episode Greg.

Greg Fox: Thank you.

Career Nation: Thank you so much for your insights and your perspectives. This was super valuable and hopefully, we’ll see you around in the Bay Area or on the show next time.

Greg Fox: Absolutely. Abhijeet, thank you so much, and to all at Career Nation for the great opportunity to speak with you today. Best of success, the each of you and to your listeners in their own personal career journeys. Thank you.

Career Nation: Thanks Greg. Have a great day.

Greg Fox: You too. Take care.

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