CEO Blog: The Four Best Technologists I Have Known and Why
I have been in the technology business all my life. I have worked with some inspirational sales leaders and executive leaders. I have known fantastic sales support people, and administrative people who deserve more credit than could ever be given. Likewise, I have seen examples on the dark side. These include sales people willing to twist the truth for a deal, executives engrossed in themselves and icons of hypocrisy, and technologists who were often wrong but never in doubt, causing undue damage to those around them.
Without elaborating on anything other than the technologists, some of the great sales, operational, or executive leaders were Steve Capelli at Sybase, Chuck Wilmoth at Prime Computer, my late friend and CFO of Aleri Janine Condor, and Mark Logan and Brian Ladyman at YOUcentric, though all for different reasons. I will save the what and why regarding them for a later day. Today, I want to speak about four technologists who have impressed me above and beyond the rest.
The first is Jim Dow. I have long lost touch with Jim, but he ran the Computer-Aided Engineering group at Southern Company in the early 1980s. Jim had a profound understanding of technology architecture and its technological and business implications. Jim was frustrated with incompetence and delighted in true advancement. He was as articulate as he was smart, and would speak often and passionately about the implications of new technologies and on the challenges faced on many fronts.
The second is Dave Walker. I met Dave when he was a consultant, acting in an interim VP of Technology role at Aleri when I took over there. Dave is the complete package. He has the instinctive architectural understanding of Jim Dow, but couples that with very pragmatic, hands-on delivery to customers with exceptional results. Customers love him because he delivers way more value than what he is paid, which is non-trivial. But Dave is also a great guy. He is ethical and straightforward, clear in his communications and upbeat in his demeanor.
The third is Jerry Baulier. He actually took over as the CTO at Aleri and drove the development of the Aleri Complex Event Processing System. Jerry is a deep database technologist, coming out of Bell Labs. He has a profound respect for technology, not unlike many of the colleages he brought on board (spectacular in their own right) like Jon Riecke and Scott Koledczieski. Jerry is understated but firm, and cares deeply about both his team and the products they build.
The last is our own Graham Toppin. Graham is a bit of a renaissance technologist, with perhaps the broadest range of techology understanding I know. He both loves technology and truly appreciates the future, even though some around him can't always see that far. He is at his best when engaged in the healthy debate over various aspects of technology, ranging from ways to solve a significant challenge to the pros and cons of an architectural vision. He seems to get the linkages well before they become clear to others, but crafts that vision into what we do—which is deliver a product uniquely suited for storing and analyzing machine-generated data. This is awesome today, but in Graham's view, never done. As it should be. And he cares as passionately about customers being successful with our products as any human being I have ever seen.
So what message do I get from this? First, a good technologist has to be passionate about technology. It is more of a calling than a job. Second, they have to put in the time. I guess that, in part, is fueled by the passion, but in each case these people invest countless hours to understand the landscape and what the broad scope of technology opportunity means in the context of any of their initiatives. And third, they have to be able to communicate this opportunity. This is an art form. Some have it, but few have it like these guys.
One last note. Roger Bodamer is an advisor to Infobright. Had I worked operationally with Roger, I am sure he would be on this list. He fits all of the traits and then some. He is a technologist I would bet on all day any day, and many have and still do. We love having Roger as an advisor, and on a personal note, as a friend.