On the lighter side of things, we caught up with Scale Computing’s Jeff Ready, to find out what makes him tick.
What first made you think of a career in technology?
I’ve been in and around IT technology my entire life. My father ran information systems for an industrial construction company and as a kid, I’d go in with him on the weekend – while he was fixing whatever had broken – I’d play with the punch card machine and admire how the giant line printers shook the floor. I built my first 8086 computer out of parts when I was young and haven’t stopped since then.
What style of management philosophy do you employ with your current position?
I think people are most motivated by aligning with a vision and then feeling like they are having an impact in pursuing that vision. So, to that end, my approach is to make sure everyone knows where we are heading from a high level and to give everyone the freedom to work within their area to succeed. Then, I function as a coach and I’m happy to help any team member work through a problem, answer their questions, or offer suggestions and the like, whether it’s for a key part of a major project, or something small that they just need some help with. This starts with understanding the vision and then having mutual trust that we are all working towards the same goal.
I also try to emphasise an entrepreneurial approach across the whole company. Sometimes this encourages employees to go on to start their own company and I’m okay with that. If someone tells me later down the line I helped inspire them to become an entrepreneur, I take a lot of pride in that.
What do you think has emerged as the technology trend of 2018 and why?
Edge computing – it’s rapidly becoming more topical. There are many things happening. First, there are applications which never moved to the cloud, often for very practical reasons – things that make more sense to run locally to where the apps themselves are used. Now, as areas like the Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) continue to grow, we are seeing even more reasons to run workloads at the edge. IT infrastructure needs to adapt to meet today’s modern needs and edge computing provides the perfect platform to bring IT into the next decade. We are moving into a post-VMware world and I think you’ll see that edge deployments and hybrid-clouds are areas where new technology is taking hold fast.
What do you currently identify as the major areas of investment in your industry?
IT infrastructure and solutions that can improve its scalability and simplicity are important areas of investment. As technology evolves, we are seeing more customers looking to simplify their environments. When you look at some trends like edge computing and micro data centres, you quickly realise that these deployments result in dozens, hundreds, or thousands of locations with IT systems. It is completely impractical to think that you’ll have IT staff at each of those locations. Thus, systems need to be self-managed, automated and self-healing if something goes wrong. These are areas of technology I expect to see lots of investment in, because this level of automation is required to power these edge style deployments.
How do you deal with stress and unwind outside of the office?
I have a family that includes two teenage girls, so needless to say, I am pretty busy even when not in the office! Beyond that, I’m a pretty active video gamer when time permits and I enjoy brewing my own beer.
If you could go back and change one career decision, what would it be?
Back in the mid-1990s, I started a company that did email marketing and newsletter management, with a vision to what we now call marketing automation. I was told by potential investors that this would never work, with one venture capitalist going so far as to tell me, ‘I don’t see why anyone would ever advertise using email’. I ended up scrapping that and going in a different direction which turned out fine, but obviously in hindsight I should have stuck to my guns!
What are the region-specific challenges when implementing new technologies in Europe?
In general, I think finding the right regional partners is key and it takes quite a bit of time and vetting to engage, train and trust those partners to help us have a great relationship. Once the relationship is built, then things can work smoothly, but like anything else, building that relationship takes time. Certainly, there are some partners who cover all of Europe or even beyond, but there are many more who cover perhaps one country or less – but these are often the partners who have the best relationships and knowledge about the region itself.
What changes to your job role have you seen in the last year and how do you see these developing in the next 12 months?
The shift that I mentioned earlier to edge computing has been a big driver to change. It’s a new area and as such, my interaction with customers has been very much a two-way learning experience as we try to show customers where the technology is heading and learn from them about how these technologies will impact their business and how they can best use them. I expect this high level of learning to continue for some time and ultimately, this is what drives our own product and innovation roadmap.
What advice would you offer somebody aspiring to obtain C-level position in your industry?
It’s important to make sure you are ready for the role, are passionate and motivated. Make sure you fully support the company and believe in it. I started my own company which is one route you can take, but being an entrepreneur is a lifestyle choice so make sure you are fully prepared for it. In the end, engage with your customers and your employees. If everyone is in alignment – where the customers want to go, where you and your team want to take them – great things can happen and it can be a lot of fun.