Get To Know: Greg Keller, Chief Technical Officer, JumpCloud

Get To Know: Greg Keller, Chief Technical Officer, JumpCloud

What would you describe as your most memorable achievement?

Without question, it was convincing the single most amazing human on the planet to be my wife in 1999. It was memorable AND my life’s greatest achievement! In all sincerity, having a co-pilot in life like Amy has enabled both of us to pursue our dreams. For me, this is building amazing software and companies; she helps so many people as a mind/body health practitioner. We’re a team and I am blessed.

What first made you think of a career in technology?

The Apple //e. In eighth grade, our school district received these and I caught the technology bug while learning how to do BASIC programming. It was an experience that never left me and from my first job to today, I have always been working with software, particularly SaaS companies. The creativity in technology is limitless.

What style of management philosophy do you employ with your current position?

I’ve read all the books and management propaganda and I keep coming back to the philosophy my gut has always told me which is: Hire well and then get out of their way.

You need to set outcomes and if they are clearly defined, the rest is execution. The rest is the employee’s vision, their failures, learnings and subsequent corrections and evolution. That’s pretty cool to witness.

Equally, when learnings aren’t adopted and there is a lack of vision and execution isn’t where you need it to be, you practice ‘management’. When all else fails, you move on.

What do you think has emerged as the technology trend of 2023 and why?

The 2023 trend is most ubiquitously AI. Now, there are trends and there are movements. I think we can say that Blockchain was a hot trend in 2018-19 that took hold of the community very intensely. I think the technology warrants continued thought and investment, but we quickly realised its issues.

Generative AI seems to be a reincarnation of the emotive, almost visceral, response to the technology’s impact on society, but I think this is going to move faster and deeper. We’re not talking about trying to overhaul banking systems. The effort, while noble, was like pushing a boulder up a muddy hill in flip flops. Generative AI will be pervasive. It will be absolutely impactful in our personal and work lives. It is here to stay – and grow.

What do you currently identify as the major areas of investment in your industry?

In the world of identity, it is about transformation. Cloud transformation investments over the last decade are now transforming into how to reconcile the sheer brittleness in old-world approaches to identity and access control.

Established companies could quickly move major chunks of their IT infrastructure to public clouds, but then were faced with how brittle their workforce access control systems were. Largely still on promise and almost ‘forgotten technology’, I think we’ll see huge pushes to modernise this critical stack to cloud-based, more secure versions of their former selves. I will also say that deeper modernisation of ‘the password’ will occur, in the case of literally eliminating it in favour of biometrics and other passwordless approaches.

How do you deal with stress and unwind outside of the office?

Building a company comes with a ton of responsibility. There are a lot of rocks to carry mentally in your backpack so to speak. Moving blood through the body is key for me. I try to ensure I am getting out on my mountain bike when I can, which brings me deep joy.

I am also a massive advocate of sleep. It’s critical to get your brain to reset so you can rinse and repeat the hard work that comes at you every day, for years on end. This is what you sign up for and thus you better know how to recover. Sleep is king.

If you could go back and change one career decision, what would it be?

Saying yes or going for what you really wanted and ultimately not being scared to think you weren’t good enough.

In the early days, I was always in awe of peers coming in from the most spectacular schools with freshly minted MBAs. I didn’t take that path and went through the MBA school of ‘build it yourself and learn’. I always felt I was under-gunned in education.

What I didn’t realise is that I could, and was, running circles around those MBA types. I wasn’t talking theory; I was getting beat up and learning from reality and practice. But my mind said I wasn’t good enough. It took a long time for me to realise how ludicrous that was.

What are the region-specific challenges when implementing new technologies in Europe?

In recent years, it is a ‘new school distribution’. In the 1990s it was about resellers and localised support. Fast forward to today and it’s about data sovereignty and ensuing trust to have your service adopted.

Most startups do not have the foresight or priority to enable hyper-local data regionalisation which GDPR and other regulations require. It’s not on the cards to spend the time to architect until deep product-market fit is achieved. This presents challenges when trying to do business with EU-based clients unless you have the legal counsel to help mitigate and provide the type of attestation needed for the EU-based company to move forward. This comes at considerable cost.

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?

In particular, a deep focus inward into the business has been the most significant change. This doesn’t mean I’ve always had my head in the clouds and not focused on our internal execution, but rather how we can and should be thinking differently about execution.

I see an absolute need to continue this over the next 12 months and beyond. What this current economic condition has taught us is how quickly tailwinds can shift into fierce headwinds. You need to prepare your business for any condition. Anyone can build a capable business when the market is thriving. It’s those that can not just survive, but thrive when the markets turn.

What advice would you offer somebody aspiring to obtain a C-level position in your industry?

Don’t chase the title, chase the outcomes. If you are executing and you are moving up without asking, you’re in the right place. If you’re executing and feel in your heart you’ve done your best work and no one is paying attention, it’s time for you to gather up that collective experience and go get the C-level job you want and may deserve.

Just remember that a C-level position at one company may not translate into another’s use of that title. Go get the experience and work with great people, regardless of the title. It’ll happen. Be patient and go execute.

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