Also, I get bored easily. But every time I’ve felt like I'm just getting a handle on my job at Workday, it has changed. That’s the dynamism of Workday and its tremendous growth. I started here with a team of six, and I have a few more than six people working for me now. I don’t have time to be bored given the pace of our growth and change.
How has the current state of the market influenced how you’re thinking about the direction of our products and technology?
The pandemic accelerated cloud adoption as companies have experienced the fragility of systems built on on-premise software. They’ve also witnessed the increased flexibility of their peers that have adopted cloud.
Employees have also become more vocal about issues related to equity and justice during the pandemic. From Workday’s product perspective, that translates to treating employees and customers well. Anytime a business decides to invest in their people, that plays directly to Workday’s strengths.
You also have a fascination with space, among other things. How has your experience in the space program influenced your career?
I love everything to do with space, rockets, and airplanes; it’s been an interest of mine since I was a little kid. So it was exciting for me to work in the space program, and it taught me about goals, planning, and risk.
When I look back at the Apollo program and President Kennedy’s call to put a man on the moon within a decade, I’m reminded that great accomplishments come when you set audacious goals and marry them with a pragmatic, practical, and incremental plan to achieve them. The very existence of Workday is, at its heart, an audacious goal, and I’m inspired by that goal and by helping the company achieve it.
The space program also taught me about the pitfalls of overemphasizing risk aversion. During the Apollo program, at a time when everything to do with space was new, untried, and risky, we lost three astronauts. But later, when the reduction of risk became NASA’s central focus, 14 astronauts died. So emphasizing risk avoidance didn’t create the culture that leaders wanted.
Bureaucracies and companies can inherit that type of risk aversion and unwillingness to talk openly about problems that face them. I want to be a part of helping Workday not go down that same path, to have audacious goals, pragmatic plans, and take smart risks.
In addition to being an aspiring astronaut, you’re also a woodworker. In what ways has that hobby made you a more effective technologist and/or leader?
They influence each other. Woodworking is fundamentally a craft, meaning that it is part creative and part engineering. Both of those matter immensely to the outcome.
For instance, I can build a chair. And somebody who's really good at woodworking can build a chair. Even though you can sit on both of them, and they are both made of wood, you can’t really compare them. That reveals the importance of creativity and experience, not just tools and materials.
After 30 years of managing software developers, I can definitively say that software development is a creative act like woodworking. You have to understand your material, whether it’s software or wood. Both materials are incredibly complex with a wide array of variables impacting the end result. You have to know your tools and the constraints of what is possible. Then you have to use your creativity to stretch the bounds of what is possible to get to the outcome.
Woodworking also satisfies my need for having a measurable result. That was easy to achieve back when I wrote software. I knew what I had checked into source code control each day and I had a record of progress or achievement. After getting into management, that felt like a gap in my life, so woodworking has helped me fill it.