Today's five for friday interview is a discussion with our new VP of Engineering, George Jaquette. George shares his insights on cloud, innovation, mentoring and leadership. We are thrilled to have George on our team. Please meet George Jaquette.
PM: You just joined Tidemark as our VP of Engineering. Tell us a little about your background and what attracted you to Tidemark.
George Jaquette, VP Engineering at Tidemark
GJ: I am an engineer at heart and have been building things since I was a kid. I love to solve problems and have a streak of MacGyver in me. The past five years have given me some real perspective about the interesting opportunities to change the way businesses run with SaaS solutions, and Tidemark embodies some of the key levers that developers can move -- mobile applications first, empowering employees with information throughout the organization, and building new solutions unconstrained by legacy products. The team, the technology and the opportunity for Tidemark are all part of what makes this role perfect for me.
PM: How has the cloud changed software development?
GJ: The time and distance from a developers keyboard to a delighted user is greatly reduced through cloud delivery. Having worked in a world where release cycles were measured in years, and where a box of parts was sold as an answer "custom built for the end user by an army of consultants", we have moved to a world where everyone is on the same great release, where issues are addressed for everyone at the same time, and where new features and capabilities can be delivered without an expensive and painful migration. There is of course a sharp side to this knife too -- any problems created by a cloud vendor impact all customers immediately, and shared resources have to be managed and shared well. The short distance from keyboard to user raises the bar for quality and uptime, which really creates a win-win situation where engineers are motivated to deliver higher quality and benefit from much quicker feedback.
PM: How do you think about innovation?
GJ: Innovation is a challenge for most successful businesses because it is hard to schedule innovation and it is hard to screen for it when you are hiring. Innovation in my opinion is the ability to see through and around obstacles, the ability to see a solution instead of the problems between you and that solution. One of my favorite movie scenes is outside the castle walls in Princess Bride, when our paralyzed hero says "Now why didn't you mention that we had a wheelbarrow?!" When you have limited resources, big challenges, and motivated competition your best way forward is to out-innovate, out-think, and out-deliver. Big companies try to schedule white space time and try to encourage innovative processes, but in my experience real innovation happens at small companies tackling big challenges in new and different ways accepting the risk of absolute failure. Innovators have their bad days too, and the mindset of trying again in a different way rather than retreating to the old proven method is what defines innovation.
PM: You are hiring for engineering and development roles - beyond technical skills, what is the profile of your ideal candidate?
GJ: We are looking for smart people who can contribute more than code, and we value creativity and curiosity over experience. We want team players who question assumptions, who take ownership for and pride in their work, and who have shown a lifelong desire to learn. When we are reading resumes, we want to be impressed by the candidate's measurable contributions -- what did they do that really mattered to their group, their company, their customers. Certifications and courses matter less than a track record of delivering powerful applications or innovative solutions. We work very closely with every group in the company, so we very much want flexible and friendly people here at Tidemark.
PM: Who do you consider your mentors and what did you learn from them?
GJ: I have to admit that I haven't read the biographies or autobiographies of famous business leaders like Jack Welch or Steve Jobs. My respect is much more local -- for the people who invested time in me and who took the time to connect with me on a personal level. I learned from Terry Algeo, my first boss, that it is important to spend time ensuring that everyone knows what to do and that everyone feels connected to the team's objectives (he owns and manages a chain of laundries). The coaches who taught me soccer and water polo (Mr. Noble and Mr. Metz respectively) as a youth made a huge impact on my life and they showed me what it means to be a team leader, something not every VP ever learns. From my perspective, mentoring is an informal process of teaching by doing and leading by example, and the mentors I most respect are the ones that treat everyone with respect, assume good intentions and great potential in each person, and spend the time to learn each individual's strengths and weaknesses.
An unusual observation to share is that sometimes the hardest lessons to learn are those that must be learned in the negative -- like the "Aha!" moment when a positional leader declares how proud he is that he is an a**hole, and you realize that he is serious. Some of the most powerful influences on my own style come from leaders in the negative sense, who for obvious reasons I won't identify by name.
So, how has this shaped me and my leadership style? I am committed to treating every person with respect, whether it is returned or not. I am committed to telling the truth, and to giving as much insight as I can reasonably share when people are confused or hurt. I believe that managing is like coaching. I have coached adults, teenagers, and children and the insights are the same -- set clear expectations, give immediate feedback, deliver nine times as much positive affirmation as negative feedback, and whenever possible spell out clear role definition so each team member knows how his or her efforts contribute to the team's success. Take the time to celebrate victories, and learn to accept defeat but always learn from it. Make it fun, and make sure that your score reflects the game you want to play -- keep the right score.