2016 is going to be a big year for me; it’s going to conclude a fantastic chapter of my professional career that I started in 2003. More importantly, it’s going to open a brand new chapter that I hope will be the most exciting yet. As I pondered my career so far, I identified four distinct chapters before this upcoming fifth one. Here’s the outline of my current, five-chapter professional book.
Chapter 1: The Student (-1993)
While I can’t deny that this first chapter wasn’t easy, it was foundational and formative for me. Before the age of 15, I had already attended school in Egypt, then France, then back to Egypt, then England, then back to Egypt, and then the US. With each transition came the expected childhood challenges of feeling like a stranger in a strange land, even when I returned to Egypt friendless and unfamiliar with the esprit de corps of my classmates. In France (age ~5-6), I still remember the day when my mother walked me into a French classroom for the first time not knowing a word of French; I can now imagine it was harder on her to leave me there than it was for me. In England (age ~8-10), I still remember getting in nearly-daily playground fights because I looked different than everyone else in this then-rural town of Bracknell. In returning to Egypt, I certainly remember the feeling of being a foreigner in my own land as I struggled to reintegrate each time. And, finally, coming to the United States (~age 13), I still remember being overwhelmed by East High School’s relative massive scale, student commotion in the hallways, and love of basketball during gym class, a sport I hadn’t yet been exposed to.
So, after all of that craziness, entering the University of Utah as a student brought what felt like the first semblance of level playing field: even the local students felt new; we were all little fish in an entirely enormous pond. And I loved it: I joined every club, ran for student government, took on every part-time job I could get, and made friends everywhere. The University of Utah marked not only the culmination of this first chapter, but absolutely the highlight.
Chapter 2: The Engineer (1993-1998)
I loved programming: it was like building only in a virtual environment; it was a creative outlet that didn’t require a canvas; it was so new that I felt like a pioneer. And it turned out that I was pretty good at it. From my multiple jobs as a student to COMPanion Corporation where I got to deploy my Master’s thesis work in a production environment, to Philips Electronics where I got to show off my work at the National Association of Broadcasters’ (NAB) conference in Vegas, I thoroughly enjoyed this chapter. I must admit it was also nice to have a little bit of money for a change; I could finally graduate from grilled cheese and a coffee at Dee’s.
Chapter 3: The Consultant (1998-2003)
Getting an opportunity to work for IBM as an IT Architect in the late ’90s was a fundamental pivot in my career: it was an opportunity to become the expert who travelled the country building applications and leading technical teams. I was exposed to so much in such a short period of time; this was at a time when the now-famous “tech bubble” was in its heyday. Just after “Y2K”, i was fortunate enough to be offered an opportunity to join one of the hottest companies of the time: Siebel Systems, the pioneer of customer relationship management (CRM) software. What a ride that was: in my first year, we doubled from 2,000 to 4,000 employees; in my second, we doubled again to 8,000 employees. After only three months’ tenure, my boss gave me a pivotal opportunity to grow my career by managing the “Pacific Northwest” practice of Siebel’s professional services organization. I grew so much. I learned so much. It was so very hard. I really appreciated that opportunity and that experience. I had become a new person.
Chapter 4: The Executive (2003-2016)
When my wife and I had our first son, it was time for me to get off of the road. I had been traveling nearly full-time for the prior six years. It was time for me to return to Utah companies and participate in the building of what is now known as the “Silicon Slopes” of Utah. I started my journey as an executive with a startup named Attensity where I ran the Services organization and, for my last year there, also ran Product Strategy. At the time, having come from the likes of Philips, IBM, and Siebel, a 40- to 60-person company seemed like a small family. It was a wonderful experience until, one day, an ex Siebel colleague of mine reached out to me about joining a company he had just joined: Omniture. It was then a little-known 100-person company with a lot of potential that needed someone to run its Professional Services organization. In the next five years, we went public, acquired five companies, grew to something like 1,500 employees, and were acquired by Adobe. To say that was a rollercoaster ride would be the understatement of the century. Utah’s Silicon Slopes had now been formed: we were on the map; a Utah-born tech company had been acquired for a then-unprecedented $1.8 billion. I had now acted in this hyper-growth movie twice: at Siebel and at Omniture; I was ready to do it again, this time with the benefits of a lot of lessons learned.
I joined inContact, a Utah-based publicly traded company (NASDAQ: SAAS) that had a market capitalization of only $80 million and was trying to transform itself from a reseller of long distance services to a full-blown software-as-a-service provider. It had just over 100 employees at the time. In five years, we had an absolutely stellar run growing the company to 1,000 employees and a market capitalization just shy of $600 million. We had built another pillar of Utah’s Silicon Slopes that continues to thrive and grow today.
This brings me to the relatively recent past: late in 2014, I was asked to join what was about to become a very exciting merger of two companies: Utah-based Allegiance Software (~120 employees) was to be acquired by St. Louis-based Maritz Research (~800 full-time employees and ~1,500 part-time employees). What made this merger interesting was that the CEO of Allegiance would become the CEO of the combined company and, equally exciting, the headquarters would be moved to Utah. All that was needed was a few key executives to facilitate the merger and bring the two companies together. I was honored to be one of them. Boy would this be a fun, challenging, and rewarding job: integrating ~600 full-time and ~1,500 part-time employees across 18 offices around the world coming from entirely different business units: from software to market research to data sciences to call center to mystery shopping, they ran the gamut. Over the span of just under one and a half years, I would come to genuinely respect and admire my team as we worked together to unify a culture, build a leadership team, and form the basis of what is now a very well-positioned leader in its space. I will genuinely miss this team so very much as they’ve become dear friends of mine.
Chapter 5: The Advisor (2016-)
Late in 2015, I made a very difficult decision: it was time for me to close the Executive chapter of my career and open a new one. This would be the most bold move I’d ever taken in my career thus far: leaving a fantastic company with huge potential and stability to go it on my own. I had spent quite a few years involved with startups through the Park City Angel Network as well as my own advisory board positions. When I asked myself what I was professionally passionate about, the answer was so very crystal clear: I loved coaching entrepreneurs; I loved being a consultant and advisor to them; I loved dealing with good people; I loved helping and investing in people who needed help. So, with that end in mind, and in the biggest leap of faith of my career, I’m closing out my Executive chapter and opening a new chapter this year: the Advisor.
Under the moniker of “Mindshare Ventures,” and with the support of a few colleagues who will help me with the venture, I will lead an effort dedicated to helping startups succeed: from strategic and operational guidance to technical know-how to fundraising; I want to partner with entrepreneurs to make them a success. And, yes, I’m treating this as a lean startup, meaning the model isn’t yet fully-formed nor is it even fully-launched; I hope to do that in the coming week or so. I am so eager to share more details as they evolve. If you’re interested in following or participating in this adventure, please connect below. I hope it to be exciting and fulfilling ride.