Tell us a bit about your background!
I was born and raised in Winnipeg and still live there with my wife and dog. I graduated from the University of Manitoba for both my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Computer Engineering. Since graduating, I’ve worked for a wide variety of companies.
I started with a company called Seccuris that focused on providing business security solutions for their clients. From there, I went to Magellan Aerospace as a software engineer with the flight software team; at the time working on the Radarsat Constellation Mission - which was pretty cool! (editor's note: It was VERY cool!)
After I left Magellan, I went to JCA Electronics, which was beginning to make waves in the smart agriculture space. There I developed desktop, mobile and embedded software for customers in several industries such as agriculture and mining. It’s a very neat industry - I didn’t realize how much technology was involved in operating a farm.
Most recently I worked at Holley Performance Products, where I started in the engineering team and was promoted through to electronics group manager - overseeing areas including fuel injection, ignition systems, and data logging.
How important is maintaining an entrepreneurial mindset as a business grows?
You definitely have to maintain an entrepreneurial mindset if you want to remain dynamic and grow. I find it particularly important for an engineer to strive to add value to a business. As a software developer, you have to understand where you fit within the entrepreneurial effort.
For example, Facebook was known to “move fast and break things”. In their more mature days, this eventually changed to “move fast and have a very stable infrastructure.” The entrepreneurial mindset remains, but it has to be built on a platform of stability. People love new features, but absolutely hate when something isn’t working.
What do you see as the key characteristics of a winning development team?
Thinking in roster terms – we've got to make sure we’ve got some great bench depth. I see this as ensuring there are experienced leaders who are committed to mentoring younger folks. They have to understand what exists already, where we are headed and why you built something in a certain way. Setting that foundation can be very valuable and formative.
Zooming out a bit, a critical component to a winning team is that everyone understands why they're there. At the end of the day, you’re not just writing code. You’re supporting a business. If you can’t understand how – there’s no incentive to look for the right thing to do. It’s imperative to develop an attitude within the team that ties all work back to providing value to the business and our customers. If you’re doing that well – then you’re winning.
How do you maintain a customer-focused approach to complex dev projects?
It’s challenging. You need to remain exposed to the customers. Keeping in touch with what is important to the stakeholder you are developing for is critical to maintaining a customer focus.
The biggest thing is maintaining empathy for your customer – you're solving a problem for a business owner on the other end. If you lose sight of that, that's when you wind up in trouble in a complicated development project.
We’ve seen an evolution in the startup space from Minimum Viable Product to Minimum Lovable Product. In a B2B environment it’s not sufficient to come to market with a substandard product or feature – the customer always has options. We sell the software that they use to operate their business! It’s not something we can take lightly.
What drew you to the opportunity at RocketRez?
I’ve always enjoyed following SaaS companies - love to follow the market and what different companies produce. They face such unique challenges to evolving a product. The SaaS space has moved mountains in shifting consumer behavior to things that were completely unexpected 15 years ago. Take Salesforce for example – big companies were entrenched in on-premises software, now cloud is sweeping the world.
When I was considering the job at RocketRez I actually signed up for a demo with Gina (editor's note: Gina is our wonderful Account Executive, who joined RocketRez after using the software for years at her previous employer). She gave me a great overview of the product and all the problems it had solved for her in her previous role. I thought, clearly they’ve got a great product when previous users of the product want to join the company!