Category Archives: Episode

Angelo Ponzi: Strategic Conversations About Marketing



Joanie has a conversation with Angelo Ponzi, a marketing architect at The Ponzi Group. Angelo has more than 25 years of marketing experience in and outside of companies in industries ranging from semiconductors to financial to restaurants to beverage to ice cream. As a fractional Chief Marketing Officer (and marketing nerd!) he helps define market opportunities, develop competitive profiles, and marketing strategies.  Angelo talks to us about how technical leaders can strategize about marketing and what pitfalls to avoid.

Highlights:

Q: What drew you to the field of marketing?

Angelo says that it is about being able to solve problems for clients.  He also talks about feedback he received early in his career to identify where his aptitudes lay.

Q: What’s the difference between what you do and what the typical digital marketing firms do?

Angelo describes how digital marketing firms are often his clients.  They hire him to conduct market research for them so they know who to target to get clicks.

Q: What are some common marketing pitfalls technical leaders tend to run into?  Are they different from the pitfalls other types of leaders face?

Angelo has noticed that there seems to be more of a focus on the features of the product than the functional value of it.

Q: How can technical people think more strategically about marketing?  When should they start doing this?

Angelo talks about the importance of telling your product’s story, among other things.

Q: How can technical people better communicate with and appreciate marketing help?  How would your ideal technical leader interact with you?

Angelo suggests stepping back to understand the user and the customer.  They may not be the same people. Listen to the show to hear more about what technical leaders can do to improve their marketing strategies.

Shout Out to Angelo’s podcast Business Growth Café.

Words of Wisdom:

It’s the failures that help you learn what you’re good at.

At the end of the day, you will fall in love with your product but you have to make sure there is a market for it.

Know your customer and build relationships with them.

Contact Angelo Ponzi:

949-357-9547

angelo@theponzigroup.com

www.theponzigroup.com

https://www.linkedin.com/in/angeloponzi/


Michael Puldy: Managing Critical Life Circumstances



Joanie has a deeply personal conversation with Michael Puldy, CEO and Founder of Puldy Resiliency Partners, LLC.  Michael has over three decades of technology, information risk management, and operations experience in the aerospace, banking and computer technology sectors, including at IBM. He is passionately focused on ways companies can improve their offensive and defensive posture towards internal and external threats.  But, in this episode, Michael shares a personal story about how an unexpected suicide impacted his life, both personally and professionally.

Highlights:

Michael answered these questions and more.

  1. Your career was pretty accelerated for the first 25 years. You worked in governments, aerospace, banking, a security services start up and at IBM….and then you personally came to a full stop.   You lost your first wife to suicide.  Walk us through your professional mindset and focus around that time (2009).
  2. Professionally, you have built a career around disaster recovery, continuity and incident planning, and crisis management, talk about how your professional vocation helped you through this experience…or did it?
  3. Let’s fast forward 12 years later, looking back how did you navigate your way through your crisis both personal and professionally, what worked and how did you reinvent or rebuild yourself?

Listen to the episode to hear his story, how he took care of himself, how others supported him, and what he learned.

Shout Out:

Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services, where Michael volunteers.

Contact Michael Puldy:

Email: michael@puldypartners.com

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mpuldy/

 


Vladimir Baranov: The CEO/CTO Relationship



Vladimir Baranov is the founding CTO of AdvisorEngine, a fintech company that was recently acquired by Franklin Templeton. Vladimir has been building successful technology solutions primarily in the fintech industry for 15 years, and he shares his experience on managing the business/tech divide.

Highlights:

Q: What are some of the common challenges that come up between CEOs and CTOs?

In summary, Vladimir says it’s about the relationship between two individuals.  Typically, when the relationship starts, there may be friction because they’ve never had a relationship before.  They may also have different myths and legends about what the other thinks.  Understanding each other’s concerns is important but so is communicating them. They may have different ideas of scope and product success too.  Vladimir gives several specific examples of challenges and myths and legends.

Q: What have you had to learn or change to improve your relationships with CEOs?

I am a constant reader and a complete believer in self-improvement. Understanding where the other person is coming from and understanding their biases and context is probably the most important thing you have to learn. Our natural tendency is to start analyzing anything that is said to us from our own context and sometimes that is faulty if we are not taking into consideration the context of the person who is telling us.  Vladimir talks about how he communicates his knowledge vertical to others.

Q: How did getting an MBA help you better work with CEOs?

It has helped me more on the engineering side than the business side.  Eighty percent of the benefit came from when I had to explain the business rationale to my reports and my partners on the technology side who did not have the business background.

Vladimir also talks about what CEOs have done to build a solid relationship with him as a CTO and he gives advice to CTOs on how to improve their relationships with their CEOs.  Listen to the episode to hear more.

Words of Wisdom for Building Relationships:

Even when you have your own self-awareness, it is important to realize another person may not.

Build trust by acknowledging we may have conflict, but it doesn’t come from trying to hurt each other.

Be transparent and be open and tell each other you want to build a collaborative relationship.

Invest in training soft skills.

Contact Vladimir Baranov:

Email: vladimir.baranov@gmail.com

Website: ceo-and-cto.com


Manish Bhardia: Habits for Healthy Teams



Joanie has a conversation with Manish Bhardia.  Manish is a principal at Think AI, a software development and consulting firm, author of the book Teamwork and Collaboration: How to Select and Use Right Productivity Environment for You and Your Team, and co-host of True Stories in Tech podcast. Manish specializes in AI and cloud consulting and has more than 17 years of experience leading complex technical projects.

Highlights:

Q: How did you move from being an engineer to a project manager?

Manish was told he was good at communicating with the clients and business users and that got him thinking about becoming a business analyst or project manager.  Also learning about the bad things that project managers do, such as working their teams too hard, made him want to do better with his team.

Q: How did you come to start your company, Think AI?

Because he worked well with clients, Manish decided he wanted to work with multiple clients as a cloud consultant and business owner.  He tells us how he learned how to build his sales skills too.

Q: How did you come to write your book, Teamwork and Collaboration?

A lot of Manish’s work at Think AI has been focused on teamwork.  They conducted a user-group survey to find out what their challenges were, and he wrote the book on the top ten items that centered on teamwork and collaboration.

Q: What are some of the unhealthy habits that remote workers have adopted and how can they get back to or start new healthier ones?

Manish said there are easy answers, but they are hard to implement.  He gives many tips both in his book and on the episode.  He also talks about how to add fun to a remote work environment, how to add clarity as a leader.  He also talks about how people adapting to interacting with AI.

Words of Wisdom, especially for Remote Work:

Keep your body active.

Keep calendar slots open for fun.

Create your ideal calendar and try to fit your schedule to that.

Be clear to your team on what to ignore.

Shout Out:

IAMCP, the International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners.

Contact Manish Bhardia:

Website: Think AI

Book: Teamwork and Collaboration: How to Select and Use Right Productivity Environment for You and Your Team

Podcast: True Stories in Tech

 

 


Lydia Chiu: The Importance of Communication in Web Design



Joanie interviews Lydia Chiu, a partner at Jub Jub Interactive.  Jub Jub is a web application development company based in Orange County, CA.  Lydia has over 15 years of programming and web development experience.  She has a deep understanding of content management systems and enterprise application development.  Listen to the episode to hear Lydia’s stories on how she became a web developer, how she developed as a leader and how communication has been core to her success.

Highlights:

Q: How did you develop an interest in web design and become a partner at Jub Jub?

It’s not the typical story and it involves an interesting pivot and an unusual partnership.

Q: What challenges did you run into early on as a team lead and how did you overcome them?

It included a feeling of imposter syndrome, a lot of learning, and good communication skills.

Q: How have you evolved as a leader over the years, for example as a partner at Jub Jub?

Learning how to groom new leaders and employees who could interact effectively with clients.

Q: How do you understand your clients’ businesses and needs and what skills did you have to develop to get better at that?

Lydia’s early work in customer service while in high school was an important experience for her to develop communication skills and comfort in delivering bad news.  Delegating is an ongoing challenge.

Q: There aren’t many women who do what you do.  What has been your experience as a woman in the field of software development?

Lydia has had great female role models but has also encountered some unfortunate situations with clients who respond to her differently than her male counterparts.  Listen to the podcast to hear her stories.

Words of Wisdom:

Mom was always right.

No matter what you’re doing, writing and coding are fundamental skills for success.

Anytime you start a business with partners, there’s a huge amount of trust that you need.

Knowing you’re going to work through conflict is key to a successful partnership.

Contact Lydia Chiu:

Website: jubjub.com

Email: lydia@jubjub.com

Twitter: @lydiaatjubjub


Michelle Beauchamp: Leveraging Diversity as a Team Leader



Joanie has a conversation with Michelle Beauchamp about diversity, equity, and inclusion in the tech world.  Michelle is the CEO of The Champ Group, a training and coaching firm that focuses on sales and diversity.  One of the reasons Michelle is so special is that she is a very positive, encouraging person.  She will inspire you in this episode.

Highlights:

Q: How did you come to help organizations work on diversity, equity, and inclusion?

“My passion is to help people learn and grow and succeed.  When I started The Champ Group, I decided to focus on leadership, sales, and communication.  That’s what I have done for 14 years.  I love helping people grow in those three areas.   I help people understand the greatness they already have within themselves.”

“This summer, I had an epiphany.  It happened because of my awareness of so much racial injustice— the cases of Ahmaud Arbery, BreonnaTaylor, and George Floyd—and that’s just to name a few, just for this year.  I thought, ‘I have a passion for this.  Clearly, I have my own experiences being a Black woman,’ and I thought, ‘I need to put my leadership training that I already have and the subject of diversity and inclusion together and make that work.’  I came across a program from another group I’m a member of—a program that I could purchase a license to—and I decided, ‘I’m going for it!’”

“Clearly, this is a subject that is tough.  Everybody has an opinion about it.  Some subjects that I already teach, such as the power of listening, the energy that is required to really listen and not interrupt and jump in there, and the ability to have empathy, are already leadership traits that I train on.  It’s just that now, we can dive into it on the subject of diversity and inclusion, which does require a lot of listening, a lot of empathy, and speaking at the right time.”

Q: A lot of clients are asking about diversity, equity, and inclusion.  But, especially in tech, I hear that they feel like they are doing as much as they can, and they don’t know what else to do.  Or they are concerned about doing the wrong thing and are playing it safe by doing nothing.  What is your response to that?

“The good news is that it is being discussed.  People are curious and they are concerned.  I look at that as a good news thing.  I’ve been doing a lot of research on this and I saw some descriptions that I thought were interesting.  One came from Accenture and it said that companies who take this on need to have bold leadership.  They need to have an empowering environment.  And they need to be willing to take action.  You can’t have these conversations and then nothing happens.  That’s what employees are concerned about.  Not doing anything, that’s what not to do!  Don’t try to sweep it under the rug.”

“I wish that more companies would hire consultants to work with them on this because that’s what companies do; they seek professional guidance when they need help with something.  The same is true with this subject.”

Q: The stats on diversity in STEM suggest that not enough is being done.  What are technical organizations missing?

“I hear ‘We can’t find qualified minority applicants.’  That has to be yesterday, not today and tomorrow.  It does take extra effort.  Someone in the company can have the job responsibilities to reach out to other communities.  For example, there are the HBCUs (historically Black colleges and universities), as well as other ethnic universities.  There are also the chambers and women’s organizations.  The existing workforce is diverse.”

“One thing I know is the people in the tech companies are smart.  Companies that have more diversity enjoy more profits.  It’s worth the effort to go out and find the people.  We need more people to be mentors and sponsors.  That’s the inclusion part of it.”

Q: How do we start the conversations and take action?  Listen to the episode to hear Michelle’s response.  Her advice for starting is simple yet critical, something we can all do.  She also shares tips on what to do and what not to do in leading efforts in diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Words of Wisdom:

The first thing to do is have the leaders check themselves.

If you’re not embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion, accept that.

None of us has all the answers.  We just need to show we care.

Embrace the effort to reach new communities.

It’s little things, like who are you inviting to lunch?

We need to get over it!

No matter what the cause is, we all need allies.

Contact Michelle Beauchamp:

Email: michelle@thechampgroup.com

Website: https://www.beasaleschamp.net/

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/MichelleBeauchamp


Mike Kimball: Key People Factors for Entrepreneurs



Mike Kimball is an attorney who works on venture capital deals in the tech space.  He knows what it takes to create and execute structures and agreements to foster fast growth.  He also knows where entrepreneurial leaders fail.  Mike has a wealth of experience from working on a nuclear submarine to working in big tech in Silicon Valley and negotiating business deals for companies of all sizes.  For his stories and insights from his eclectic background, listen to the episode.

Highlights:

Q: Tell us about your eclectic background.

“As a kid, I always had a fascination with airplanes.  I also had a fascination with submarines.  When I was in college, I spent two summers working in the space program.  I graduated with a bachelor’s in chemistry.  I ended up in Bakersfield, was bored, and went to see the Navy recruiter.  When he heard I had a technical background, he put me in the nuclear submarine program.”

“When I got out, I worked in energy, then went back to school and got a law degree.  I had met a friend (our families were water skiing buddies) and the two of us went shopping for a house boating trip.  We were walking out of the store with our grocery carts full of groceries and he told me to call his friend about a job.  I did and was hired and helped grow the company.  I was then introduced to the general counsel at Yahoo and he hired me in an executive position, where I stayed for six years until I hung out my own shingle.  My clients are typically either small companies or small venture capital firms.”

Q: What observations did you have working at a large company?

“As a company grows, unless they have a very enlightened HR department, it naturally starts making decisions more by committee than by leaders and that slows things down.”

Q: What do you look for in startups?

“If you had to pick one thing to bet on it’s the founder.  Have they had a successful exit?  Does their vision hang together?  Is it coherent with the business model?  Is the founder coachable?  And coachable really comes down to good listening skills.”

To hear more about why startups fail and the importance of sales early on, listen to the episode.

Words of Wisdom:

Leaders need good listening skills.

We always do it better the second time than the first time.

There’s a true art to getting doors open and deals made.

The power of “no” when you don’t want to do something is very powerful.

I would like to see more coaching of founders.

Contact:

Website: www.kimballesq.com
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/michaeljkimball/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Law-Office-of-Michael-Kimball-108717547452026/?modal=admin_todo_tour

 


Lynda Roth: Leading Transformational Change



Joanie has a conversation with Lynda Roth, a consultant who bridges IT expertise with business and lean management.  Lynda founded LJR Consulting Services to provide assessment of existing business and IT processes and educate business executives about information technology options and lean business process to help them creatively reduce cost and improve profits.  Lynda also has a book coming out soon called Digital Transformation: An Executive Guide to Survive and Thrive in the New Economy.

Highlights:

Q: You’re not a typical IT consultant. What do you do?

“I generally work with executives.  I don’t get into the tech anymore.  I’m generally brought in to a board member or executive I’ve met or through someone who referred me.  They usually have some sort of a problem and they don’t know how to define it and they don’t know what to do next.  That’s where I start.  Let’s evaluate what your problem is and then I find out what to do.  I organize and manage the whole thing and bring in all the resources.”

Q: You started out as an accountant.  How did you get into this line of work?

“My father desperately wanted me to be an accountant when I got out of school.  I thought it would take too long.  At this time, colleges were just starting to have technology in their curricula.  My guidance counselor suggested I look into that.  They had a few IT courses and business courses.  I got a 2-year degree, got a job, and satisfied my need to move out of my parents’ house.  I went back to accounting school at night and got that degree, but I was already making more in IT than I would as an accountant.”

“I started my own software company in the 80s and had my own digital disruption that caused the business to fail.  And then I started my own consulting business to help other companies transform.”

Lynda’s story of her own digital disruption is compelling.  Listen to the episode to hear it and what she learned.

Lynda also tells stories from her book about transformations that changed whole industries before digital was even a thing.  Her lessons are powerful and directly relate to today’s transformative world.

Words of Wisdom:

You need to re-imagine your business today.

In the 21st century, you have to throw out the rule book of what you’ve done before.

Sears was the Amazon of their day.

Why did everybody gravitate toward the automobile?  Because it was faster than the horse.

Contact Lynda Roth:

Website: http://www.ljrconsultingservices.com/

Telephone: 818-216-7264

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lyndajroth/

Look for her book on Amazon.


Paul Johnson: From Rapid Growth to Team Reductions



Highlights:

Joanie has a conversation with Paul Johnson, Partner and Managing Director of Essilen Research.  Essilen is a consulting company that helps tech leaders build robust and reliable tech organizations.  Paul has over 20 years of experience at Qualcomm, where he worked his way up from a software developer to a senior director of engineering, overseeing a worldwide team of hundreds of engineers.  He has some great stories and insights to share.

Questions:

Q: What brought you to San Diego from Canada?

“I went to the University of Waterloo, which is famous for engineering and for doing internships, and lots of companies around the world go there to recruit.  I did an internship at Qualcomm and came back after college.”

Q: You have a bit of a unique story working for Qualcomm for over 20 years.  The company went from rapid growth to reductions in teams.  What did you learn from that?

“It was the number one company on the NASDAQ when I joined in ’99.  You feel kind of invincible when it’s like that.  It’s really exhilarating, and you feel like you’re going to change the world.  I did learn how to be a software engineer, professionally, how to add value, how to crank and get my technical chops up.  But then, as the years went by, what made it so interesting to stay at one company, which is a little unusual these days, is that you get to see the arc of how things can change.”

“A huge lesson learned that I use in consulting is that you can’t grow out of all your problems.  When you’re growing, you kind of feel that way, that you can keep growing and it will go away.  Another one is the importance of seeing when growth outpaces processes.”  To hear Paul’s examples and his challenges with layoffs, listen to the episode.

In this episode, you’ll also hear Paul’s insights on how to prepare for the unexpected (such as a pandemic), the surprising thing that helped Paul develop his people management skills, and how he founded his consulting company, Essilen Research, and what they do.

Words of Wisdom:

It’s really hard to unwind processes that you didn’t set up right.

Get into the habit of writing down how you work at your company.

People change a lot and it has a lot to do with incentives at work.

It’s not about navigating prickly people, it’s about debugging what’s behind people.

You need feedback to have a world class team.

Contact Paul Johnson for a free consultation:

Website: Essilen-Research.com

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/pauljohnson-techleader/

 


Aseem Giri: Managing Technical and Creative Personalities



Joanie has a conversation with Aseem Giri.  Aseem has over twenty years of experience as an entrepreneur, private equity investor, and investment banker. He is also fond of art, serving as an Art Advisor and/or Finance Advisor to art-related businesses, and he hosts his own podcast, called ACHiEVE, where he interviews people about life-changing events.  Aseem has a lot of experience working with both creative and technical leaders and shares his insights in this episode.

Highlights:

Q: Tell us about your background.

“I was born in Germany to parents of Indian origin.  We migrated to the States when I was young and we lived within a 90-minute drive of New York.  I went to college in Philadelphia and followed a fairly traditional path in terms of finance.  I did a 2-year analyst program at a Wall Street firm called Salomon Brothers. That was in the mid-90s.  It doesn’t exist today.  It got gobbled up by Citibank.  From there, I made it a career objective to go into private equity.”

“Life threw me a curveball.  My son—who is now 12—when he was 2 ½, was diagnosed with a rare blood disease called severe aplastic anemia.  I made the clearest decision I’ve ever made in my life.  I dropped everything I was doing and I focused on him.  My son is cured now, thankfully.”

“At the same time, I lost my mother to leukemia.  Those two things had a profound impact on my and I didn’t want to go back.  I became an entrepreneur, a serial entrepreneur.  I have founded and sold three different health and wellness businesses.  I also do have a passion for art and I became an active collector and became involved with an organization in the art space.”

Q: What kinds of challenges do you see in the different spaces of technical, wellness, and creative?

“I often find that the wellspring of ideas come from the ‘creatives.’  I include engineers in that category—technical people who have a solution to a problem.  What I have found in interacting with them in the role of the business guy setting the deadlines and such, is that you have to give a lot of roaming space to creatives.  Be liberal with the deadlines and sometimes give them false deadlines and use them as an opportunity to check in.”  He relates this to products ranging from yoga mats to thermal printing.

Aseem answers a number of questions, including: What does the CEO look like who you evaluate as having to replace when you invest in a company?  What kinds of challenges have you faced with engineers?  Why does it matter who gets the credit for solutions?

He also reveals his latest innovation, a virtual reality based meditative experience that is comprised of sound-based and visual-based stimulation.  It is a “bio hack” that lowers cortisol levels and emotional regulation without the spiritual aspect.

Words of Wisdom:

Technical people are artists.  If you try to corral them too much, you’re not going to get the best work out of them.

You don’t want your engineers to worry about cost.  You just want them to come up with the best solution possible.

I’m never intimidated by competition because I feel we’re going to find a niche that’s ours.

If you’re the founder, it can feel like the company is the alter ego of you.

Contact Aseem Giri:

Podcast website: https://achievepodcast.com/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/aseem-giri-9463401/