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Transcript powered by Happy Scribe

Welcome everybody to the show. My name is Eric Wright. This is the DiscoPosse Podcast where we are bringing on a return guest, somebody who I really enjoyed having a conversation with the first time, which is why I was honored to be able to help Michelle Seiler-Tucker. We talked about her book “Exit Rich” that she co authored. It’s an amazing book. I’ve read it. We talk about the 6P framework in her original episodes. Go on, make sure you check out her original show. But to top this off, we’re talking today about lessons learned since the release of the book and an amazing announcement that the audiobook is now available.

So you can follow the links below. Get the audiobook because right now it’s on sale for $299. This is a really really amazing deal. Literally like less than a cup of coffee. Why in goodness name would you not get this book? It’s well read. I love the folks that they had, actually did the reading and just the content of the book is fantastic. So Michelle Seiler-Tucker, thank you very much for letting me be a part of helping with the amplification for the launch. And this is why great people support great things and I love supporting Michelle and all the work that she’s done. Speaking of support, of course, I want to give a shout-out to the folks that support this podcast that make it happen. If you have data anywhere in your world, which you do, I know you do, especially any of the systems you’ve got in your organization, you need to make sure that you protect your data, protect your business, protect yourself, protect everything. So everything you need for your data protection needs can be shopped out by the fine folks over at Veeam Software.

It’s also Veeam-On coming up next week. If you’re listening live and this is a really great time, everybody’s going back in person. So go head on over to vee.am/discoposse. You can see all that they’ve got to offer. I recommend it. I’m a user of the platform myself. Very cool. And also, we are super proud to continue to grow our partnership with the friends over at the Shift Group. So, JR at the Shift Group, if you caught his episode which you absolutely should, this week’s episode is brought to you by the team at Shift Group. They are turning athletes into sales professionals. So if your company is looking to hire driven and competitive former athletes, or considering how do you architect to go to market that can scale efficiently and effectively? Shift Groups not only offering a huge pool of really cool, diverse sales candidates from entry-level leadership, but they’re helping early stage startups to develop a hiring strategy, the whole interview process, and really building sales culture that’s going to scale with you and build high talent, early-stage companies. So head on over to shiftgroup.io and you can check it out. All right. With that, this is Michelle Seiler-Tucker. Get yourself the book. Click the link. Seriously, leave right now. Pause. Go over and download the book, it’s fantastic. Thank you very much.

All right, Michelle Seiler-Tucker, thank you very much. This is a rare treat to have somebody come back. I don’t often get the chance to spend more time, especially with somebody as amazing as you, because I know you are busy in day to day. Plus, we’re here for a special occasion right now. We talked in the past about “Exit Rich”. We talked in the past about your entire story, your business, your own way of helping people to get to success, both personal and professional. But we’re here today because we’ve got something new in the Exit Rich world. So Michelle, if you want to re-introduce yourself to folks that are brand new to you, and we’re going to talk about the new launch of the audiobook and everything wrapped around it.

Absolutely. Well, first of all, Eric, thank you for having me back on. I appreciate it. I am Michelle Seiler-Tucker. I was on your show, I think it was six months ago. I’m Michelle Seiler-Tucker, mergers and acquisitions master, intermediary senior business analyst, certified mergers and acquisitions professional, and a bunch of other acronyms behind my name. I’ve been in this industry a little over 20 years. I think what really makes me neat in M&A is I own other companies. So I’ve always been an entrepreneur. I’ve always sat on the other side of the desk. I’ve always had to be the one to make sure I meet payroll, pay the bills, et cetera. So a lot of my advisers, brokers, have not necessarily owned businesses before. And I think that helps me to be able to relate with my clients and really be empathetic and understand what they’re going through. So at any given time, I own several different companies. I’m also building to sell. Like I said, I’ve been in this industry for a little over 20 years. I personally have sold over 500 companies. My firms has sold probably even more than that.

And we really specialize in not just selling companies, Eric, but we specialize in buying companies, selling businesses, helping buyers buy the business of their dreams. We specialize in fixing and growing a business because Steve Forbes, who endorse “Exit Rich” says 80% of businesses on the market will never sell. 80% – I mean, that should be a big wake up call for business owners because that means you have less than a 20% chance of success when you go to sell your company. And so what I learned a long time ago is if I don’t get in and roll up my sleeves and help fix these companies, help position them and help them build the infrastructure on what we talked about last time, which are the 6P’s, then their business is not going to sell. So like I said, we don’t just specialize in selling. We specialize in fixing these businesses, growing these businesses. So the owner really has a sustainable business that’s scalable. And when they’re ready, sellable.

When this is very important too, Michelle. We often forget about the numbers. And in fact, you are one of my most quotable episodes because in the industry, we’re constantly thrust with this number where people say like 99% of startups fail. And I continue to go back to remind them, watch the episode with Michelle Seiler-Tucker where she talks about how that’s actually inverted. Right. The upside-down numbers that we get from the SBA. And now that 80% that you and Steve talked about there of businesses that are sitting unsold. That is an interesting stat. But if you don’t mind, let’s recap on sort of the failure in this metric that we talk about that small businesses are failing.

Yeah. So small businesses are failing. And to go back over those matrix, I was actually quite shocked myself because when I wrote my very first book, “Sell Your Business For More Than It’s Worth” in 2013, I did the research back then and learned that 90-95% of businesses were going out of businesses were startups. So that is true. However, what’s changed so dramatically is when I did the research for “Exit Rich” in 2019 and 2020, I learned that the business landscape has really flip-flopped. So now it’s not startups a great risk anymore. Startups only have less than a 30% chance of going out of business. A 30%. So they have a 70% success rate. But, what’s so mind-boggling is when you look at America and you look at what the economy is really built-on, there’s 3.2 million businesses in the United States employed over half the US workforce. Over half the US workforce. Think about that.


So small business is really supporting the economy, the American economy. If we lose small business, we lose jobs. What happens when you lose jobs? We lose spending power. And then what happens? It’s a trickle down effect. We stopped going to restaurants. We stopped buying ice cream. We stopped doing a spinning discretionary money because we don’t have it anymore. So now you have a triple down effect where more businesses will close. So 30.2 million businesses now, out of 27.6 million companies in the United States, those businesses have been in business for ten years or longer. 70% of those companies are going out of business. 70%. See how it flip-flops. So now startups have a 70% success rate, whereas startups, existing businesses have a 70% failure rate. Pretty scary. And you hear about the big companies all the time in the media like, the media will talk about public companies, Toys R Us – in business 75 years ago, goes out of business. Montgomery Ward, Sears, J.C. Penney’s, Pier1 – I love Pier1!

Right. Crate and Barrel, a recent one as well. Lord &Taylor, lots of the big retail players.

Yeah, but the media doesn’t talk about the private companies. They only talk about the public businesses. On the private side, we got businesses on every street corner and every city and every straight across our great nation. These businesses are dropping like flies. They’re selling from – they’re actually poor, not rich. They’re selling for pennies on the dollar, closing the companies or even worse, filing bankruptcy. And so it’s really scary. And by the way, Eric, that was before the pandemic. I hate to see my numbers now, but that was before the pandemic. And I always say the number one reason for that, why it’s kind of flipflop is because startups are really a different breed now. It used to be the dreamer mentality. People would leave their corporate jobs and say, oh, I always wanted to own a coffee shop. I always wanted to own a restaurant or a clothing store. But they don’t have the business experience. They’re probably not really an entrepreneur, you know, they’re really probably not an entrepreneur. And they have that build-it-and-they-will-come mentality like “Field of Dreams”. Remember the movie “Field of Dreams”, build it and they will come? Now, a lot of those startups go out of business because they’re brick and mortar.

Plus, the business owner is not really an entrepreneur. They didn’t do their due diligence. They didn’t study their area and run demographics. And most businesses fell in those first one to five years because they simply run out of money. They run out of working capital. The startups now are younger generations and they are forward thinkers. They’re problem solvers. They’re solution-oriented. So they’re not just building another coffee shop. We don’t need another coffee shop or another restaurant. So they’re looking around and saying, well, what’s the problem? What’s the solution? How can I fix this problem? Right? And so you have a lot more tech businesses. You have a lot more e-commerce businesses. You have a lot more businesses that are started by, like I said, newer generations. But also, people got laid off from their job during this pandemic. And a lot of people are going – wait, what can I do to start my own business and really make a difference in the world? Now, on the flip side of that, for existing businesses, existing businesses are going out of business because of what I call lack of AIM. Aim is “Always Innovate and Market”. So business owners become complacent. You know that. I mean, look at Toys R US. They didn’t do anything different in 75 years. Look at Blockbuster. Blockbuster had the opportunity to pick up Netflix, to buy Netflix. They sat back to nothing and are out of business. So this is going to become complacent. They also, really they’re in love with their original baby, with their original concept, their original idea. And they don’t like change. And that’s a big problem because you’re either growing or dying. There is no in-between, which is why I always tell business owners, you got to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. And so that’s the big reason that so many business owners are going out of business because they stop innovating. Here’s the bottom line. The marketplace has changed dramatically. The way consumers purchase products and services is completely different than the way they used to place them or buy them. And you can pick Amazon for that, you can pick the Pandemic for that. But you really got to innovate, and you really got to look at your industry and you got to ask your client, what do you want? What do you want to experience when you do business with us? What can we do to make your experience more pleasant? What can we do to make it easier for you to do business with us? And you got to innovate. You’re either innovating or like I said, you’re dying.

It is interesting that when we look at – especially the historical changes and then the tightening up of that type of thing, I mean, the pandemic obviously reshaped everything, and it made a huge opportunity for a lot of businesses. There are small environmental changes that can ravage a business. I remember I lived in Vancouver, British Columbia, at the time when the Olympics were coming. And so they said, well, we’re going to build a subway from the airport to the city to make it easier for the Olympics. So it seems like a fantastic idea to build the economy. What do they do? They tunneled underneath the main roads, and in order to do so, of course, you block off the road because you can’t be driving while they’re tunneling. Well, that took 14 months and literally destroyed every business on that road because they were all traditional little tiny met restaurants with local businesses and no parking other than two spots in front. And I think to myself like good galley in that kind of a snap, that stuff can occur over snap, a snap decision that has a 24 month effect, whatever over. It took a few years for it to really finally pay out.

But their inability to go into a new area of the market to attend to a new customer, to figure out a way to get out of that thing, that single event ultimately wiped out. And we see that often, right? And it’s not just whether it’s going towards exit ultimately, but just going towards sustainability if a single market change can fundamentally affect. You taught me this lesson, and I hold it, it’s in my heart every day. And I think this because we talked about this idea of solopreneurs and the risk that people think that they’re in business when they’re a solopreneur. And you taught me these words, if you stop working and the business stops working, you are not in business.

You have a qualified job that you got to work with me versus the business that works for you.

And it reminded me and everything I do I have that in my mind. I’m like, what would Michelle tell me to do to automate this? Make it repeatable, make it scalable, offload it, whatever I can do, not just outsource. Also, another lesson you taught me, just outsourcing it, putting it on Upwork or Fiverr is not actually running a business because you’re not building a team. You’re not building a scalable system. These lessons stuck, Michelle. And I thank you for that.

Glad I can make a difference.

So let’s talk about the book, because not only did I enjoy it thoroughly and I’ve read it and it’s marked up and highlighted and bookmarked all over the place. But I’m not the only consumer. Lots of folks taking the stand. Let’s talk about how the book has been doing.

Well, the book has been doing great. I think I was under show in January and you know, look, like you said, something can happen and completely stop us dead in our tracks. And actually wrote “Exit Rich” in 2019 and we were supposed to publish in 2020. And then this pandemic happened. So we ended up publishing June of 2021. Now is on the show, I believe, in January. So the book is really great. It’s a Wall Street journalist bestseller, not in New York Times, but it will be.

We’ll get it there.

So Wall Street Journal, USA Today bestseller, and it’s in the Hudson bookstores and 99 different Hudson bookstores all around the United States. We’re getting boring recommendations. What I really love and what I guess really inspires me to continue to write and continue to educate is when I get letters from entrepreneurs that have been in business for decades. And we had a media company that emailed us and said, look, Michelle, your book changed my life. That’s what changed my life. I’ve been in business 20 years. I thought I was doing everything right. I read your book and realized I was doing everything wrong. I basically took your book step by step, broken out to different divisions in my company and told them follow this book to a T for everything that she says. And he says it’s really changing his business dramatically. It’s going to come to us in about two to three years to sell. And then we had another owner entrepreneur in Texas. It’s a pharmaceutical company. And he actually bought the book before the booking and launched. So we emailed him the digital version. He printed it out in ledger paper and highlighted everything, gave it to different teams, his teams, and said, listen, do everything she says, on the people, on the product, on the processes, on the proprietary.

And he came to me to sell this business, and we’re going to be selling it for the $25 to $50 million range. And so I love getting those letters. I love getting those calls because it means I’m making a difference. And that’s what inspires me. That’s where my true passion is – is to really help entrepreneurs, really help business owners be able to save that business and be able to not become a statistic of the 80% of the statistics don’t sell, but become in a 20% to where you can sell for premium for maximum value and exit rich. That’s really what my passion is. It breaks my heart when I see baby boomers, their heart, their energy, made huge sacrifices along the way. These baby boomers are actually poor. Many of them are losing not just their business assets, losing their family assets, too, because they take out a mortgage against their family home. And that breaks my heart. I really want entrepreneurs to be able to really retire for their desired sales price and exit rich so they can finally sit back and enjoy the fruits of their labor, because as entrepreneurs, they make huge sacrifices. We go into this and we’re going to have better quality of life.

We’re going to have more time, we have more money. Well, guess what? We don’t always have that right. I talked to a business owner who’s in business for six years. He said, Michelle, I miss every one of my kids soccer games. I miss my girl’s plays. I miss pretty much everything in life. My life just passed me by while I was working in my business. While I was working in my job.


Versus my business working for me.

I still remember years ago working in retail, and there was a fellow who had a restaurant inside a mall. So in Toronto, Ontario, was living in Canada at the time, very busy mall. And millions of people come through here and traffic every day because it’s a subway stop and there’s lots of office towers nearby. And so it was like a falafel restaurant in the food court. And he was doing an incredible amount of business. But it wasn’t enough that he had real margins. And what ended up happening was he ended up after a few years of working there, selling the business to go back to work for a restaurant, because in the end, his direct money he was making to take home to his family was less than he could make in an hourly rate. But he was working open to close every day.

Yeah, that’s sad. That stories are prevalent and it’s very sad. So it’s always been my mission. So they help entrepreneurs build a business, not a job, and really build people, because you don’t build a business. You build people and people build a business.

That’s why I really enjoyed the book, not just in the processes and lessons that it teaches which are real, tangible things you can do that work. I know this. I literally am living the experiences of doing it. So I’m not like I said, I chose my guest. And it was a blessing to know that I was going to get to spend time with you to thank you for this, Michelle, because on top of that, there’s additional stuff that comes from the book you’re able to get in. You’ve got lots of online community. You’ve got great folks that you can get connected with and learn lessons beyond what’s written in the book. But now let’s talk about what’s coming up, because not only is the book printing and doing well on that side, but you’ve got an audiobook coming out as well.

We do. And the main reason for that is because everybody’s asking me, Michelle, I have the printed version but I want the audio so I can listen you know during my commute to and from my company or wherever they’re traveling. So we did come out with the audio version just a little bit more on Exit Rich. Exit Rich again, is endorsed by Steve Forbes. My co-author is Sharon Lechter who wrote “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” with Robert Kiyosaki. Kevin Harrington is the Ford. And Kevin Harrington was the original shark of Shark Tank in the United States. I think in Canada you all have Lionston, I think it’s called. Yeah. Anyway, so Exit Rich, I just want to be crystal clear. Exit Rich is not just about selling the business, because in most cases, you don’t have a business to sell. Exit Rich is all about, number one, figuring out what do you want, what do you want? What is your end game? Like Steven Covey always says, start with the end in mind. Exit Rich is all about planning your GPS exit model, planning your exit from the beginning, and really determining what is your destination. What do you want to sell your business for?

You can’t wake up one day and say, I want to sell my business for $20 million when you haven’t grown a $20-million company. So you really have to plan it in the beginning and say, I want to sell for $29, and then you have to build that $20 million company. You need to know who are the buyers, what’s their buying criteria, where do your numbers need to land? So you need to know all of that. And you also have to go through what I call the “Seller Sanity check” to really check yourself to see what’s the most important thing to you. Is it what you walk away with. Sometimes it is, sometimes it’s not. Is it making sure your place is taken care of? Is it to make sure that your clients are in good hands. Is it making sure that the new order is going to grow your legacy. So you really have to go through that seller sanity check. And then one of the most important lessons of Exit Rich is to build that solid infrastructure, because it’s the infrastructure of the people, the product, the processes, the proprietary assets, the patrons – diverse client base, the profits.

Those 6P’s is what will maximize value. Those 6P’s is what we’re taking it from a three multiple to five, to six, to eight to ten. And then it’s all about how do you package your business for sale. And then so the first half is getting it ready to actually build a sustainable, scalable business. The second half is all about selling your business. So it’s almost two books in one. And so we all come out with the audio version in May. Go get it today. You can go get it right now. You can get it in apple – I believe it’s in Apple, Barnes & Noble and Kobo. So Kobo, Barnes & Noble and Apple – $2.99 which is less than a cup of coffee, less than a quarter pound of cheese meal at McDonald’s. So with $2.99, you can get the audiobook After May, it’s going to go back to its original price, which is going to be $24.99 I believe.


And so with that $2.99, you also become what Eric was talking about – an “Exit Rich” club member. So you get access to documents. Documents to operate your business. Like sample employee handbooks, non-competes, policy and procedure manuals to sell your business. Sample prospectuses – what they should look like. Sample letters of intent, due diligence checklist, closing documents. All the stuff you need to operate your company and sell your business are there for your download and your use. And guess what, Eric? These documents cost me over $50,000 to create, and you can get them for the $2.99.

That’s amazing.

Yeah. So it’s amazing value and go out and get your copy today. Again, that was Barnes & Noble, Apple or Kobo. And it will be worth every single penny. I know Eric read the book so he can attest to that.

I stand 100% behind. I bought it for full price. It’s funny. I think even your production crew were like, hey, let us know if you need a copy of the book. I said, oh, too late. I knew I could ask, but I also knew I was willing to pay for it. So I wanted to make sure people know that me endorsing this book is 100% because I believe in the book. And like I said, I’m using it in lessons that I’m doing to build things that not even looking at a near term exit right now, but to build sustainable processes and a sustainable business, because that’s just healthy for me. Right. I know what my intent is in growing what I do. And like you said, you set that. What is your expectation, what is your goal? And then how do we build processes to make that business achieve that goal? I can tell you on that side of the lesson. I haven’t gotten to the exit yet. But like I said, we’ll talk in a couple of years when I’m a Michelle Seiler-Tucker, you’re selling my business. We’ll do business together that way, too.

And, you know, I think you just hit the nail on the head, too, because you might say, well, I never want to sell my business. That’s okay. First of all, I never say we’re number one, because you never know what life has in store for us. And number two, even if you go and sell your business, at least you’re building a valuable asset. At least you’re building a sustainable business that can run without you. So you truly do have financial freedom. So you truly do have a better quality of life and you’re in charge of your own destiny and your ability in a business that you can scale. And if the situation ever occurs that you do have to sell, you’ll have a valuable asset. I get calls all the time, Eric, from spouses, where they say, like, a lady called me from Dallas, her husband dropped out of a heart attack at the age of 45, left her with a pile of debt and asked me if I could sell her business. Well, guess what? He didn’t have a business. He had a job. He had a construction company. He didn’t have any employees. He had all subcontractors. He didn’t have any processes, no possible procedure manuals. Everything was in his head. So when the business owner died, he died. So the most important thing here is set your family up for success. We never know what’s in store for us. So we want to make sure that we’re taking almost valuable asset, which is our business, and we want to make sure we’re setting it up for success. So if anything does happen, God forbid, our family will be taken care of.

Yeah. And even as a successful transfer, why wouldn’t somebody want to pass it on to their kids and give that option? Right. People often just think exit means sale, but exit is bringing the business to a new stage and you yourself are exiting. But it’s only good if you can pass that on to somebody else and they can continue to grow it and know how to operate it. Definitely feel and for $2.99, it’s a crime not to get this. There is nothing that is worth more than the time you invest in reading this book, for sure. So I know I will be an early listener and a repeat listener because it’s also not like a read and walk away situation. It does play out like a manual that you want to revisit and recheck. It’s very well written in that way. You and Sharon work together and created a great book.

Well, and that’s why we came out with the audio version, because like I said in the beginning, so many of our readers are saying, look, do you also have the audio version? Because we want to listen in the car, not just read it. So go out there and get both. But if you don’t get anything, get the audio version. Make sure you get that audio version and you’ll love it. It also comes with all the supplements. So like all the glass and charge and things like that that we have in the book, the surveys, all of that will also come with audio version.

That’s always the funny thing when I talk to people and they’re like, how can you listen to a business book? Because it has lots like charts and such. I’m like, well, because they come with a PDF, you can get all those assets, which is great. Now as 2022 kind of a wild time. We’ve got inflation, we’ve got a lot of things going on. But Michelle, what’s the positive outlook? What can people look to do in a good way to embrace sort of current market conditions?

I mean, like I’ve always said, innovate, take a survey of your clients, of your market share. Really survey your clients because so many business owners really lose that perspective. Why are you in business? You’re in business to serve your clients, right? Without clients, without users. If you’re a tech business, if you’re a SaaS business, you got to have users. If you don’t have any users, you don’t have any business, right? So really take stock of your clients, of your market share and actually go back to your clients. A lot of times we think we know what we want our clients to experience, but you really need to go ask your clients. Mcdonald’s did this back in 1940s when they created the fast-food McDonald’s chain and they created a fast-food system. They asked clients because they did surveys and they asked themselves, what do we want our clients to experience? Three things. We want them to get hot food. It’s great-tasting, 30 seconds or less. Come up with the three things you want your clients’ experience, but really look at the markets. Look at what’s happening. Make sure that you research and not just learn from your industry, but learn from other industries as well.

Look at some of the leaders and what they’re doing. Like, look at Amazon. I mean, Amazon is a great company to learn from. So is Disney. So is the Ritz Carlton. There’s so many different, so is Apple. So many different companies to really learn from, because you can take some of the things that they’re doing and adapt it to your industry. But innovation is the name of survival. Innovation is survival right now. With inflation and everything else and the cost of just doing business and retaining employees and everything, you just got to get really creative. You got to throw the box away. You got to do things different than you’ve ever done it before. And if you can’t really see clearly because you’re so in it and sometimes we’re in our pocket foggy, sometimes you’re so close to it, you really can’t see it. Like I always say, it’s hard to read the label. It’s hard to read the label from the inside of the bottle. You need an outsider’s perspective to read the warning sign to keep you out of the danger zone. So if you can’t really see what you need to do differently and innovate, get a mentor. Get somebody who’s been down the road you want to travel. Learn from other people’s mistakes. You don’t have to learn from your own all the time. Get somebody out there to see something that you can’t see yourself. I mean, that’s what I’m really good at. I’m really good at looking at other businesses and asking the question, what business are you in? What’s your superpower? What business should you be in? And those are very important questions to ask ourselves right now. Amazon did that back in the 80s. They asked themselves, what business are we in? We’re in the fulfillment business. What’s our superpower? Fulfillment! What business should we be in? Fulfillment for everybody. But it’s true, right? Same thing with McDonald’s. What business are we in? Everybody says they’re in the restaurant business. No, they’re not. They’re in the real estate business. Mcdonald’s are huge because of Ray Kroc’s starting McDonald’s Corporate Realty, gave him leverage over the McDonald brothers. It is the reason why McDonald’s is the largest real estate holding company in the world. But guess what, Ray Kroc didn’t come up with that on his own. As an outsider, go watch a movie – The founder, that was an outsider looking in on Ray’s conversation when he was trying to borrow more money after being overlapped. So a lot of times, it takes an outsider’s perspective to help us see things more clearly and help us really be able to innovate. But you can’t do the things the way you’ve always done them. The world is changing so quickly. Consumer’s buying habits have changed dramatically. Number one because of Amazon and number two because of this pandemic. And you really got to look at all that and eyes wide open. And don’t do business the same way you’ve always been doing it because you’re going to lose market share and end up going out of business.

Yeah. And if anything, like you said, the lessons are out there to be had. And founders, builders, operators, they love to share lessons because it’s as important for them to talk through what they’re doing. It actually is a great validation. I forget what the process is. Something like, see, say, do teach that’s the way that they do medical school. Right. You watch it, you learn about it, then you explain what it is because by having to explain it, you’re rationalizing it while you’re explaining it. Then you do it and then you teach it. And that cycle flow, there are lots of people who are at that teach phase. If you’re a gamer, it’s like a cheat code for business. Like, why would you just wait to turn a hard lesson on yourself when you can find somebody else that maybe has already had that lesson learned and impart that on them.

Right. But before you get that mentor, we are going to make mistakes along the way. I was just talking to a roofing company. And they’ve done really well in three years. Victor’s EBITDA is earning some franchise taxes. Depreciation is around 2-3 million. In three years, it’s pretty good. And they’re like, Michelle, we made every stake in the book. We made it. And I said, did you get a mentor? And I said, no, I wish we would have. Three years ago. They said, but we felt forward. We keep selling forward. We keep learning from our mistakes. And you know what? If you don’t quit, you didn’t tell.

Absolutely. Yeah.

But they were cracking me up because they’re like, well, nobody can make as many mistakes as we have made. And you know, what they also did is they didn’t just learn from their industry, their roofers. They went and learned from the funding trade, from the logical trade, from the HVAC trade, from all other different service trades instead of just learning from their own industry. And then they figured it out. And then they became marketing geniuses. And it really blew up their business in pretty much a year and a half. So half of the time they made all the mistakes. The second half they go on their business exponentially. But go out there and get that mentor. And that’s what I’m talking to them about. I’m like, okay, I’m going to start a company, but then I want you to go help others. I want you to go help others forward and have them learn from the mistakes that you’ve made in the past so they’re not having to make the same mistakes. I mean, we can all learn from each other. We can all help each other better ourselves.

That’s it. And like you said, it’s how you react to it that will change the outcome, right? There are lots of mistakes that are made, and there are lessons learned from them, and it’s what you do beyond it. There’s a great I think it’s like an Instagram sort of meme or video. And this guy just started talking the back almost like a preacher. And he says, practice, practice, practice. Like he’s talking to crowd. He goes, practice makes what? And you hear the whole crowd go perfect. He goes, Absolutely not. Get that mindset out of your brain. He says, practice makes better. Better means more practice. That’s really how we have to think. Like, you do it and you will make mistakes and you will survive them and you will learn from them, hopefully.

I tell my daughter the same thing. My daughter’s in gymnastics and the apparatus she struggles with the most is the balance beam – she’s great on everything else. This is her first year in competing and she hates practicing the balance. And like, you have to practice, practice will make you I never say perfect. I say practice will make you better. It’ll make you fall less. It will make you fall less. It’ll make you get a little bit higher score. And I had an interesting gentleman on my podcast the other day, Peter Taunton, who was founder of Snap Fitness, he says 10% is what happens to you and 90% is how you react to it.

Oh, yeah.

10% is what happens to you and 90% is how you react to it.

Yeah. There is very much that mindset. And that’s really why mentoring is important, because even the strongest founder’s mind and the perseverance you got, you can still get stuck sometimes and you can still get hung up or feel like you don’t have a path. And going to the community and finding folks that are, like you said, even better sometimes to leave your industry and look outside because a lot of those practices transcend the industry. And in fact, even the best things come. Right. Look at how many companies like you said, McDonald’s, they happen to make burgers. But I remember when McDonald’s and this is back in the 80s, I think, or the 90s, they decided to add pizza to their menu for a very short period of time. Rightly.

I don’t remember that.

Yes. It might have been a Canadian thing. And literally overnight, McDonald’s became the largest pizza restaurant on Earth because they rolled it out to every restaurant across multiple countries. Right. So that scale of business meant like if they are in the scaling business, they were in the logistics business. They were like, that was the thing they were doing. So you can look at that lesson. I don’t want to go to McDonald’s to learn how to cook a burger. I want to go to McDonald’s to learn how to move people in through the restaurant experience.

And how to really create those processes in system to where if you got to, unfortunately, hire someone, McDonald’s get rid of people all the time. People quit all the time. Mcdonald’s can take that SOP checklist and have an employee train within 30 minutes and look at the drive-through or any other position at McDonald’s.


So to really learn their systems or processes and how they do things is just amazing because again, it’s all about those processes and it’s all about getting the right people in the right seat to run those processes. Mcdonald’s and Burger King is a great example of that.

There are many things. And even though some people get stuck in the idea that I don’t want to make a checklist out of my vision, well, you’re not. You’re making a checklist out of the operations to achieve your vision and so, don’t ever get lost in the idea of your vision.

What happens to your vision if  you don’t have processes. You would never achieve your vision. That’s what happens to so many entrepreneurs, because entrepreneurs are visionaries. I mean, most of them are visionaries. They’re not integrators. Entrepreneurs are like squirrel, squirrel, squirrel, squirrel and he’s visionaries. But they need a good integrator. Every entrepreneur has to have a good integrator. An actually fun moment with entrepreneurs is, there’s more entrepreneurs by the neuron integrator? There’s really good integrators. And that’s what every entrepreneur needs is that great integrator to really get their vision onto a policy procedure and they don’t really get their vision into implementing it.

Well, if you want to build for the right outcome, then you got to think like you need to Exit Rich. I can tell you, like I said, so congratulations on the release of the audiobook and for folks that are watching and listening, get on it, $2.99. This is absolutely, I’ll buy a bunch of copies, drop a comment on the YouTube. I will make sure I enrich people with this. And a lot of my friends are getting a copy right now. I can tell you because this is absolutely worth it.

You got to be out of your mind if you don’t get it for $2.99. You must be out of your mind.

It’s always amazing to me when people be like, well, they’ll negotiate by 10, 20, 30, $50,000 on the price of a house. But then it’s like $2.99 for a book that could change the future of my business success. If this is the $2.99 you’re fighting in your head over, then maybe you shouldn’t be in business to start with.

It’s really giving up a cup of coffee at Starbucks.

Absolutely is. So Michelle, thank you.

Coffee is like $5 now at Starbucks.

That’s it. That’s it. 100% ROI, I can guarantee that. Michelle, thank you very much. And of course for folks you can go to exitrichbook.com. That’s where you can find it. I’ll have links for everybody to get to it and look forward to having you on again as we get further into the year and hear about how the uptake has gone and hopefully that inflation. We’re on the right side of inflation and the economic story. It’s going to be an interesting year ahead for sure.

Yeah, I tell you, it is definitely going to be an interesting year.

And Michelle, I guess I should say just in case any other, what is the best way for folks that they did want to get connected with you? Of course we will have your own website also there. But what’s the best way to reach out?

Yeah, so they can reach out at seilertucker.com. If you want to take the 6P quiz to see how you stack up and how you rate, you can go to seilertuckeracademy.com to take that quiz. Follow me on social media – @michelleseilertucker everywhere: Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and then you can also listen to my podcast Extra Rich.

It is fantastic. I was going to say, I also forgot to tell people to go check out the podcast. You got a great array of guests and it’s really well done so I appreciate the listen for sure. Michelle, thank you very much.

Thank you.

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Satyam founded UXReactor in 2014 together with his brother, Prasad. Under his leadership, UXReactor has become the fastest growing specialized experience design firm in the USA, with a team of 60+ employees spread over three continents.

Before starting his entrepreneurial journey, Satyam served as Managing Director of Product Design at Citrix in San Francisco, where he played a crucial role in growing the product design team from four members to over 100+ practitioners.

Satyam was instrumental in building PayPal’s Global Design Center in India while leading a design team in Silicon Valley. We explore an in-depth conversation of modern UX, the myths of UI and UX, plus the first principles of design and its impact on usability and business success.

Check out the UXD Playbook here: https://uxdplaybook.com/

Find out more about UXReactor here: https://uxreactor.com

Transcription powered by HappyScribe

Hello, everybody. Welcome back. My name is Eric Wright. I’m the host of your DiscoPosse podcast. Thank you for listening and for watching. Of course, if you want to check out the video version of this and other amazing episodes, you can head on over to youtube.com/discopossepodcast. You can see them all as they happen, which is kind of fun. And thank you for all the people that are watching because we’re actually getting really good uptake on that side of the world. All right. This is Satyam Kantamneni. He is a fantastic, fantastic guest. He’s doing really interesting stuff with his team, UXReactor. He’s also the author of the soon to be released Uxdplaybook, which if you follow the links, go to Uxdplaybook.com. This is a must get so well put together. We have a fantastic conversation talking about his approach to user experience and real user experience. So we separate the myths of UI versus UX, the psychology that goes into creating user flow and experience in general. This can be done in software, in business, in physical spaces. It’s all over. So it’s a real pleasure to take the learnings and the research that Satyam is doing and bring it to this audience. You are going to enjoy this. I sure hope you do, because I came away with a real sort of feeling of being blessed after having gotten all these lessons.

And of course, speaking of reasons why we can have this incredible user experience, I’m so proud to say thank you to the fine folks at Veaam Software who are supporting this podcast and helping me to make sure we can bring more great conversations like the one we are about to listed with Satyam. If you want to learn about everything you need for your data protection needs, whether it’s in the cloud, whether it’s on premises, whether it’s physical servers, even those containerized crazy workloads. That’s right. Those containers, they go away and they’re gone. So you’ve got to be careful. You can actually back up because there are persistent container workloads. There are great reasons to back that stuff up. Hey, I could go on for hours about that, but I’m not going to because you’re going to go to vee.am/discoposse. And you’re going to check it out yourself because you need to do that much much more than what I just talked about.

Go check it out. Go to vee.am/discoposse. And thank you to the amazing people at Veeam Software. And if you want to toast somebody to your fantastic Veeam Protection, then drop it over to Diabolicalcoffee.com. Grab a pound of the fantastic beans. They’re devilishly good. And the diabolical asthma swag. All right, let’s get to the podcast.

I’m Satyam. I’m the co-founder and presently the managing partner at UXReactor. And today you’re listening to me at the Disco Posse podcast.

Satyam, thank you and welcome to this discussion. I really enjoy when we get to explore the topic and the practice of user experience. And as we chatted a bit in our pre discussion, preparing for this, it’s such a loaded phrase. There’s over marketing, overuse of the word. And I think this is a great chance for us to talk to you about UX Reactor, the basis behind your approach, the book, which I’ve been thankfully able to access a preview copy prior to publishing, which is fantastic. But for folks that are new to you, Satyam, if you don’t mind, give a quick introduction and a bio, and then we’ll start to talk about the UX Reactor story.

Absolutely, Eric. I think it always is useful to see. I have a very, I would say an eclectic background. I studied electronics engineering way back when I realized very quickly that I didn’t want to be a chip designer and needed more human aspects of work. I was serendipitously introduced to a professional at that point called human factors, how humans interact with complex technologies. And that became my line of work for the last two decades. So that’s kind of the highest level over time. I’ve studied engineering, I’ve studied design, I’ve studied business. So all three aspects of looking at how things come together. And fortunately, seven years back, I got to kind of spend a lot of time by building a firm, UXReactor, and looking at the intersection of all three of them, especially as the world is getting more tech savvy and more tech pervasive and businesses are kind of driving a lot more tech. But with a design mindset, obviously, Steve Jobs did an awesome acceleration to a lot of these things over the last two decades. So, yeah, I’m kind of right at the cusp of seeing this go through. And being in the Silicon Valley also helps me to kind of be very much plugged in with the tech Mecca that’s kind of it’s become at this point.

Yeah. The surroundings are certainly still despite the fact that we’ve seen sort of a depatriation of the real estate and folks moving to other parts, sort of broadening the locations that people can build from. There is still such a storied sense of history there and so much still active. Right. It’s always amazing to me. And I think the best thing, if you don’t mind, I’d love to just begin with, if you were to type it into Google, define user experience.

It’s often the most misunderstood word in the profession. If you really look at it, every system in the world has users for the system and users come in different contexts and every user has an experience. And the best definition I’ve found so far in my profession is any event or occurrence that leaves an impression is an experience. And therefore you need to kind of look at every event and occurrence that your system actually has. But now if you look at systems like hotels, they have studied this for a long while. Our hospitality, they’ve studied experience for a long while. And that’s why you’re paying a lot more for a red carton than a much more, smaller, cheaper option. But then in the tech world, where you’re starting to look at one of the biggest trends that’s going on as tech is becoming more front and center, is obviously dehumanizing to in a lot of ways, but also humanizing to a lot of ways. Right. So dehumanizing systems that you would call customer service. Now, you probably are talking to a conversational system, but again, it still has to work with a human on the other side.

So that’s why experiences are becoming much more important, especially as those events are becoming tech events, as those movements are becoming tech movements and memories are being created with tech. So you really need to kind of define experience on that end. And that is what is called user experience in the context of the tech world. But honestly, user experience, and the first thing I tell anyone is user experience is a mindset. And then how do you bring that mindset to tech is where I believe is the biggest opportunity. And if you really think about what Steve Jobs did, he did that. And that’s why today Apple is still the world’s most valuable company.

Yeah, it’s funny if we take that sort of Apple example, even within Apple, during and beyond the Steve Jobs era, we saw the introduction of Schemorphic, which was a word that no one needed. They realized they needed to know what it meant. And then on the tail end of that, the poo pooing of Schemorphic as so last year. Right. Like, we suddenly was like, oh, the natural wood texture on stuff. They’ve seen evolution. But the ethos behind the experience is always consistent. And I think that’s what’s interesting in looking at your own background as well. It’s the vision, the ethos. It’s the thing that you want to achieve. The way in which you achieve it may alter by technologies, by whether it’s visualized, whether it’s audible, whatever it is, but it’s ultimately it’s the practice that you’re creating.

Actually, let me kind of dig deep on the word practice there and also kind of sometimes add profession to it because a lot of times people don’t look at that as a skill, then more like a profession. And unfortunately, that’s kind of where a lot of business leaders kind of make the mistake. So I’ll kind of let me unpack that a bit there. When you look at the profession of user experience overall or the practice of user experience, there are different levels of how you can create value. The UI level, which is like, how does the screen look to me? How does it feel to me that’s kind of exactly towards like, Schemorphic style, hierarchy, color, fonts, all those things kind of come to be in that craft. However, when you start looking at it as a next level, you start looking at how does the whole product experience look like. So when you think about Apple, they look at an ecosystem experience. Right. So when you go from and anything, again, when you look at this is nowadays, Tesla has done this really well. They look at the whole ecosystem and they’re looking at the whole product as an ecosystem.

And that’s kind of the next level of how you’re thinking about the user’s experience. And then the third level, which is kind of the level which is much more organizational, where everybody and every element, right, from the lowest end organization, the highest organization, the newest organization, the oldest, whichever way you look at it, they all think about the user first. The users experience second, the design third, and then fourth, the technology. And that’s kind of when you start thinking about every facet of what the business is, that’s the last level and the most important frontier of user experience. And again, every time you think about the user and how this will make them feel that moment or that opportunity, that fundamentally is where value is created. I unfortunately see nine out of ten organizations spending their time in the UI side, and therefore, they only see value there and also make a lot of misteps there.

Yeah. This is the interesting. Like the misnomer, when people say user experience, they inevitably think you’re a front end developer. Like, no human computer interaction is not about which bloody JavaScript framework you’re writing your front end in or response you’re using.


You look up the user experience as a phrase has been coopted by web designers building a single page app. And I have to be careful. So there is a truth that that in itself is a user experience, but that is so niche and so narrow above definition. And the use of the phrase that the same person that will do a fantastic single page app that will draw you through a journey that makes you get to the bottom to use a strong CTA and like you do all of the right things. That is not the same as somebody who like a Tesla, like an Apple, like an IBM, like a Microsoft, like a power company that wants you to do something like you and your clients experience, the user experience goes far beyond you getting to the bottom and clicking the button.

Absolutely. And I think that is obviously the right intent, because eventually that’s how they’re interacting with the system. But it takes a lot of deep understanding of why is the user there? What are they trying to do? What are the motivations? What is the context? The same way as you would design for a kindergartner an education platform is not the same way as you design it for a high schooler. Right. And there’s all those nuances and so much context is there. And that’s where the beauty of user experience is when you can unravel it.

The interesting thing is I like that you mentioned the idea of education built towards a preschooler or elementary school fundamentally different from somebody who’s college age or beyond or perhaps even an octogenarian, right. And it is funny because I noticed things that can seem wondrous to a 30 to 50 year old are instinctual and obvious to a child sometimes. And I always give this example of the simplest thing is you take a coin and you take the coin, and all you do is you make the coin disappear. To everybody else they look at your hand because you can force them to do this. But the first thing that a child does, I’ve got two young kids is they look at the hand that you took the coin. They know right away they know where it is. You can’t push them towards an experience. You can’t guide them because they instinctually have figured it out. But to the user of a system, it’s the same thing. It’s like you have to try and pull them towards something that they didn’t instinctively necessarily believe they needed.

I think there is a little bit of I have a different perspective there. Right. So there’s an ethical element of user experience that you are trying to give people what they need, however, give it to them the way they want it in the context that they are. And the last two parts is where the tricky part is. Right. Because again, in the profession, there’s an element of looking at trying. How do I get you to click on things? How do I get you to not do what I want to do? There’s a lot of dark patterns there. But there’s one aspect of that in the last two years, more or less. Right. So what you have seen is legal has now become a tech system. Right. You have education has become a tech system. You have seen health care becoming a tech system. You’re now talking to telehealth way more openly than three years back. And these are all things that again, giving it to like a kid who’s going to go telehealth kid who’s going to go into education. All of these things are actually now becoming much more where the systems are created without the user in the loop.

And actually, one thing, Eric, I’ll tell you, which is what’s fascinating, as I became a student of this profession, that till the 40% of the products that are shipped out there are shipped without talking to one user. Right. So they’re built out with that construct like let me ship it and they will start using it. And that is just a fascinating thing of how many millions of dollars are spent on building feature sets and building products that actually don’t work for the user. And that’s why you see a product market fit as a failure. I actually think that’s the fastest way of throwing money at something and hoping it will stick and it doesn’t happen.

Now, this brings up a good callback to a famous Steve Jobs saying whether it’s actual or misquoted is the idea that users don’t know what they need until you give it to them. And people hear that. And it’s such an out of context phrase because if you read the stories of product development and product management inside Apple, it was so wrapped into user interviews and continuous research with real users. What was the I forget what it’s called, the creative process, I think, or creative design, I can’t recall. I should look it up. There’s a great book that talks. It was like an early project manager who worked with Jobs and creative selection. I think that was the name of the book. And it’s such a fantastic journey through that. But all people are going to get take out of that is I’m going to create something because the user doesn’t know what they’re doing.

Because along with the Steve Jobs code, another quote that comes from Henry Ford and it also kind of muddies the water, which is like if I just ask users what they want, they’ve just told me about a faster horse. And this was in the context of building the Model T. In both of these contexts I think a lot of people, when they read that or listen to it, they don’t understand the underlying essence. You still have to understand that users and let’s say talk about the Henry Ford context, that users will still have to kind of take care of a horse. There was not a whole family that can sit on the same horse. There is you cannot go faster than a certain speed. There’s a lot of those elements that also are informing how you’re kind of a designing in that context. And those are still user problem the same way as when you look at Steve Jobs, you start looking at he was very in tune with who the users are that he’s building for that he actually what are the pain points for them and what is he trying to kind of build from?

Like, he knew that people were carrying multiple devices, one for music, one for camera, one for personal organization. And then he said, I’m going to bring all of that together. But however, they don’t know how that will look. Like the visioning is a different problem versus the need of the R. And I think a lot of times people confuse the visioning of going and talking to user what they actually need versus what the needs of the R are. And I actually think there are two different facets. And you should really be building a lot more deeper sense of the need of the R. And that only comes when you start observing users and are much more empathetic to the users of your system.

Yeah. And this is, you touched on it before, too. And I talked about even in the way I described it. Right. The idea of leading somebody towards something that you want them to do versus observing them and figuring out how to create a system in which it would naturally draw them to a path.


And you used the word ethical and that we’ll talk a bit at length about that. I don’t want to get there just yet, because that’s a single thread that I really want to spend some time on. But it is interesting that when you observe behavior with the goal of building systems towards the end goal with continuous observation and feeding back to that loop, the ability to have both the patience and the capability to go through that, it’s got to be a unique perspective and a unique person that can do that.

To a large extent, yes. Again, if you care about it enough, you will spend the time studying it, learning about it, immersing yourself in it. Right. I mean, you can talk about building all the software for health care. I’ll give you an interesting anecdote here. This was early in my career. I was designing a system for breast biopsy system for the doctors. And as a young designer sitting in the office, I was like, yeah, this is how the doctor would use it. They would go and I was designing the thing where they actually were hitting the dials in the system so that they can get the right settings for the suction without going too much into the details of how the system works. But as I sat there, I assume that the doctor is hitting those dials and therefore this is how they will look at it. But when you go and observe and you immerse yourself and you see a couple of them, first of all, it’s hyper intimidating, very loud. And more importantly, the doctor is not doing it. The doctor’s focused on the biopsy itself. He’s giving the commands to the assistant who’s actually doing it, just observing how that subtlety works, how the user and the ecosystem work, then you realize, I just designed it for the wrong person.

The doctor would never touch it and it’s an assistant who’s touching it. So the commands have to be much more clear. And if semantics are important, if a doctor says Zoom in and then there’s no Zoom in button there, then the assistant is there’s a lot of those nuances that you really think about. And that just was my first one of my early lessons I learned where you started observing that you really have to immerse yourself. But if I was just sitting on the desk and doing it like most people would, then obviously it’s not going to work well, and then the doctor is not going to use it or they’re going to have more issues or more importantly, it’ll have some repercussions to the patient that we don’t really don’t want.

I guess if you think it’s actually a really good example too, because Ergonomics and physical environment is the sort of the OG of user experience. Right. We’re achieving this through software design and software user interfaces, but it used to be very physical. And I remember even hearing a good example was like in sport performance, somebody Lance Armstrong, love them or hate them, obviously, a well known cyclist, fantastic at time trialing. And so they did is they called them their F1 team. They were like fanatical designers, engineers that were building the best bicycle, and they were doing everything they could to shave every possible second off of a time trial. Because it’s 60 kilometer time trial will be one by 3 seconds. And that’s horrifying to imagine, like, how accurate you need to be and how differentiated do you have to try to be to achieve those 3 seconds? And so what they did, they said in the winds tunnel, the perfect bike design for this was going to be sort of narrowing the pedal width by millimeters. It was almost an insignificant difference. But over the course of a 1 hour time trial, it would take 5 seconds off of the time trial, which is the difference between winning and losing.

And when they put him out on the road with it, he came back and his time was worse. And they said, what happened? And he’s like, my hips are on fire. Because while engineering wise, it was the ideal design. He just physically did not work like it took away from the way that he can physically ride it. When you see the marriage of humans and engineering, you realize that it’s two fantastically different practices that are coming together.

Absolutely. And I think that’s the in the design world, we call it prototyping with the users. We can prototype as much as you want in the lab, but taking it to the users, letting them interact with it, letting them engage with it and then observing it and iterating on it. Absolutely. But again, these are all things that we have already figured out in the non-tech sector. Right. So prototyping has been a big part of architecture. They scale model everything before they actually build it has been a big thing. Industrial design, where they actually prototype and kind of use it. But then in the software world, for as much as we look at it, as I said, 40% of the products are shipped without even talking to one user or showing it to one user. And that’s kind of where I find that as it software is, it still is not behind the curve there.

Yeah. And often, too, even if they feel like they’ve been successful once, like they’ve gotten somebody to download and they see if the numbers are heading the right direction, if they’re going up into the right as far as adoption and retention, because it’s sort of a Schrodinger’s cat problem that would have gone better if we had spent more time with the user. We’re gaining an adoption. Our turn rate is low or reasonable. So how do you define successful but meanwhile both pre products and then post product that’s the other thing is that user experience is continuous. It’s not a thing you do once and say, okay, good, stamp it, mark it complete, it’s now in QA and continuous engineering.

Yeah. And I think you use a good term there. Continuous engineering, actually. I’m very inspired personally over the Kaisen philosophy of continuous improvement. And one thing I always say is if your users have problems, that means you haven’t done your, if any problem in the system. You haven’t done enough design or experience design until your users are in delight mode. And it’s actually interesting because once you get in the delight mode where they’re like someone thought about me or someone thought about my context, that smile that comes in in their face, that’s where you kind of end that phase. Now the irony of this is a year later that’s table stakes. Now you had to score in more delight. And that’s why it’s continuously because now just think about smartphones. Today, anyone who comes out with a smartphone without a touch screen interface, are they even actually viable? Absolutely not. Right. But then when Apple came out with the first touch screen with their construct, a very different anyone comes out with a smartphone without conversational AI – not stable stakes. But that’s where your delight has to continuously be evolving. And as tech becomes more and more powerful, you really have to queue in and what is that pain point? What is that opportunity? And that’s why continuously, every day you’d eat, sleep and drink that as a systems designer or a software systems designer, otherwise you will be left behind.

When did you know that this was a passion and that you had the ability to create a world around it?

I’ve been in this profession for 20 years. I enjoyed this, but I’ve never really knew why. And I think the last ten years is where I’ve started honing in and why. And the why is that when you really think about it, this is one profession that actually you can talk to users, understand the pain points, quickly come back prototype items and then go back to them, talk to them. And when you start realizing the power that has that you actually are as a profession, which is nothing less than when you really think about it as like an innovative. And that’s when you realize that everything can be thought through in that angle, any problem can be solved from this angle. And that’s kind of when I truly started realizing the power as I started growing in rank and like one small change here can make such a telescopic effect. So I would say the last ten years is when I started realizing more and more the power that this can unleash. Obviously a pivotal moment was going to business school and starting to understand more business problems from other peers because I went to an exec program.

But before that, I really enjoyed it, but never really understood why and what are the contours of that interest. But I would say the last ten years has been more so being very aware of it.

Now, this is an interesting point that you braised that I think is very important is the connection of the business outcome to the user experience. Only the measurability, because it is a very sort of touchy-feely type of idea. As we talk about sort of the practice of user experience that people believe it’s like, people will like it more. We use odd superlatives to describe it, but there is measurability in it. So tell me where that differentiates a true user experience designer from maybe somebody who’s involved in user experience, but just more specific and niche is part of the process.

As I mentioned earlier, you can do a lot of user experience on a UI level. Designing a screen, a form factor itself. But all you can design and use experience as an organizational aspect. Now, a good designer is thinking about how do I again, I’ll give you an interesting lesson I learned early on which would probably connect some of these dots. I was working in a company once, and I’m not kidding you. Every team I worked with said we are user centric. And it was a fascinating thing. I’m customer success, I talk to users. I’m user-centric. I am customer support. I talk to users, I’m user-eccentric. I am engineering, I’m building for users, I’m user-centric. I am marketing. So everybody had the frame of mind. You go and ask the user, how is this company for you? And they’re like, man, I talked to support. They will send me one place and they say, go talk to them. Products actually does one thing. And so from a user’s perspective, they were like, I hate what you guys are doing and I don’t like it. So when you look at it, it’s interesting, the intent is right, but the outcome is kind of not coming together there.

So when you start thinking about what a good designer bad experience designer, absolutely good designs are being done on the UI leve., but really bad design is being done on organizational level. So that’s kind of where you’re looking at. And obviously the impact of that, the more higher you go, the more value that you can unlock. But in the most basic sense, I think they’re coming back to something that you kind of started with, where’s the business sense? The UI level is obviously very touchy-feely. Like they feel right, they look right, they’re delighted, all that stuff. But if you really look at all businesses, all business stakeholders, they care about adoption, retention, satisfaction, efficiency, and these are all user efficiency and user engagement. And to get to that level, you really need to understand why the user gets it, doesn’t get it, what’s the context, who the user is. And then you kind of build those experiments and iterate on it. And that’s truly when you start and you can increase adoption, you can increase attention. So many times you make tweaks and e-commerce or transactional experiences, and then you start seeing them back, like just explaining something to someone gets them to sign up faster.

Just getting them to kind of talk to a community and building a community experience gets them to engage better. So these are all things that you need to know, what are the unmet needs? And then because of that engagement, there’s a higher attention, there’s higher adoption, there’s all these nuances that come to it, everything that you do. And that’s also why UX Reactor was founded, because I was just sick and tired personally, where design was becoming very much like a touchy-feely thing. And I said, no, design is a business driver. And I met and that was also the pivotal point for me was finishing our business school and talking to about 100 other business leaders from different contexts. And I could see that they had real business problems that I could solve. And that’s kind of what the genesis. And actually, I think anybody who says that as a practitioner, that designers touchy-feel, that means they don’t really understand the power. And unfortunately, that is still a profession that’s in adolescent. So therefore, there’s still a lot of that going on.

Yeah, I worked in finance and insurance and technology, like in tech support early on in the first part of my career. And it was trying to think it was like 2003, so early 2000s. And even like pre-1999 origin, I worked at Sunlight Financial, anybody who can look at my LinkedIn. So I’m not giving away secrets here. And I remember we were like moving from mainframe terminals to PC. So this is like Windows 31. The first change, adding a mouse to somebody’s life was like, good golly, I’ve never seen one of these things before. What is this? What do you do with it? It was literally that level of change in business process. And then we had this one team that I remember that always stood out to me. And they were the ones that had colored hair and tattoos, and they sat in the middle of the floor of our IT Department for some reason because we had all these printers and they were the design team, and they worked on the only Macintosh computers in the whole company. And they were these sort of odd group of folks in that they were different than the traditional suit wearing insurance folks. We’re still in a very corporate environment. However, the leader of the team was this fellow named Paul. And I learned so many lessons from him, that he could beautifully nurture the creative process that these young, just such interesting people could bring. And they were looking at, like, physical design and like brochures. And then it became email. They became what they did was pervasive to the way the company was portrayed. And then he was sort of like the dad of the group, but who also understood that what are the marketing numbers? What are the ways that we measure it? And that was my first understanding. I’m like, this was design experience versus just print. They weren’t a print shop. They were truly connecting like a textual experience, like tactile experience rather, to a business outcome. And it was like, oh, wow, I knew it was important. And as I saw over years that we moved into software design and software user experience and seeing it done right in some organizations, I was like, you knew that they got it and they understood the impact.

Absolutely. I think I’m a big believer of multidisciplinary thinking. And when you connect the dots, it actually is much more effective. Yeah, absolutely. I think the only thing when you said that that’s one reaction I see is like the creative kind. And yes, absolutely. There are a lot of people that are different and in the creative pursuit and so on and so forth. But it’s actually more of a mindset. And it’s a mindset that I personally advocate that a lot of people can get into, especially now that we all are equally, all the tools and systems and methods are available. It’s much easier to become an engineer if you want to watch YouTube videos and learn in the same way. Much easier to learn design and appreciate design. There’s just so much opportunities to kind of become a student of a lot of different systems. But yeah, I think design is kind of coming in. Most organizations in the Valley, as well as most tech companies, have some investment in design. What kind and where they are and how mature is a different question, but they have some investment. Just to give you one quick story, there is I started my career also in early 2000s, and my title still was User experience at that point with User Experience specialist.

And I had a scrum manager ask me like, oh, so what do you do? And I said, I’m a user experience specialist. I said, okay, what do you code in? I said, I don’t code in anything. And then he’s like, oh, so you just get paid to do boxes and arrows? And I was like, I get paid to do boxes and arrows. But that’s exactly fascinating. But then again, not in any real intention, but just how his understanding was. How can you build your experience without this? But over time, I still kept in touch with that master. And it’s fascinating. I mean, how much the profession has evolved.

If you think of those days. I mean, I remember coming through doing some work in telecom, in schooling, and I went to University, like took some part time courses, and it was all about information technology management. And they were teaching us about legacy telecom technologies that were like decades old. And that was at that time the beginning of what I started to see HCI – like human computer interaction, was beginning to become a subset of computer science. But only a handful of people moved towards it versus today. I would imagine that it’s actually probably core competency and core curriculum, I think, for computer science. So we’ve seen it, be understood the importance and the impact that it can have.

I think absolutely. I think just look at it. Right? I mean, what was that saying? That we have more computing power on our body than the space shuttle that went to moon? And that just is fascinating. I mean, the amount of tech that we have around us, the amount of systems we are interacting with, and if you do not think about the human in the loop and build that around that, then it just is an opportunity lost. And again, with the curve, there will be a lot of people adopted because it solves a problem. And just the same way as I would say before FaceTime and Apple brought FaceTime. And yeah, you could talk to person to person if you knew the IP, and then you kind of plug it in and then you do a thing and maybe kind of figure out the firewalls and all that stuff. But today it’s just like I click on a person’s face and I call them, and then I’m talking to them, and that just is the nature of how technology has evolved. And do they really care about what IP and which country and which location?

And they don’t because the systems take care of it and the human just wants it to work that way. But again, it works with an iPhone. But when I go into my home, it’s kind of a different context. So there’s a lot of those still, as technology is becoming pervasive, I just believe that there will be more opportunities for us to really think about human in the loop across systems.

And I think what we learn is that through those first iterations, just like with Teleconferencing, right. It was like you’d have a Polycom system in one office and a Polycom system in another office. And some poor bugger in the networking team is trying to set up sip trunking and point to point peering and all this really difficult technology to make one meeting happen. And there’s a bunch of people staring at the back of an It guy in one room and staring at the back of an It guy in another room. And then eventually the TV’s light up and it’s all right. Now we can begin and it’s wondrous versus now the natural expectation is I should just be able to walk up and click the button. And then I’m talking to Tokyo. Absolutely. Underneath it all the same, technology exists, right? But we took what was that problematic experience and we’ve gotten through it and we’ve automated and systematized it, which is, I think, where the advantage comes in. And also, like you said, it’s about iteration. It’s about listening, finding the customer problem, and seeing where just in the same way that any design business design, like lean practices, which ultimately came from the work of Toyota and Kaizen.

I read Eli Gold Rat and this idea of the theory of constraints and how this comes as far as flow. Well, experience flow is similar, right? Like find the bottleneck, subjugate the bottleneck, eliminate it, and then look for the next bottleneck and continue to do so until you have flow.

Absolutely. Yeah. It’s more science than art overall. And that’s why I say I’ve seen a lot more correlation with engineering, with creativity, which actually is one thing that because if you look at it, let’s talk about creativity and movie making. Right. If you talk to cinematographer and you kind of understand how they kind of compose the picture, it’s a lot of mathematics, it’s a lot of angles, it’s a lot of equations around light and camera angles and so on and so forth. But no one talks about it that way. You still have to equally be appreciative the same way as dancing, as so much math, steps counts, and all those things that you have to really think about a lot of nuances and designs are very similar. Design is very similar. In fact, I write in the book too about this, which is that a lot of times people pick up when you say design inspiration, it’s always looking for somebody who’s a designer in the craft sense. But I actually think that one of the best designers in the world was often not discussed in the modern context is Da Vinci. And because you think about him, he understands biology as well as he understands engineering as well as art.

And he’s good things to show in each one of them. And perfect. And if you can look back again talking about Steve Jobs or anyone, the construct of being a polymath, construct of looking at how things connect, that’s kind of where the magic is. And then you kind of apply that aspect of the flow and kind of looking at every aspect and every problem and then unlocking it. There’s just so many ways that you can make that magic happen.

And that is Da Vinci is such an incredible example of that. Like as both a creative mind and as an artist, a very literal artist, and what he could create, we could paint and his drawings, but his engineering. And when you look at the stuff that’s not the most popular works that we all know, you realize, like how many thousands of engineering drawings that he has. And this was pre-computer. This is very rudimentary tools that were given to him to do this. And he was creating something fantastic. On the Jobs thing too, it’s funny. There’s this weird thing that people often do is they say, oh, he wasn’t actually an engineer, but he understood the engineering aspect. He understood the technology, he understood the business, he understood the human behavior. And that may have been his strongest focus area. But he wasn’t just a marketing guy that made Apple big because he was really a marketing guy. It’s unfortunate that we kind of try and dumb it down to just like labeling somebody as they do this thus. That’s what they did.

I think it’s a really good thing to unpack. Right. And we say this at the firm of UX Reactor a lot. We say this always start with the user, understand the experience, then design it for them, and then look at the technology. And if you look at how Steve Jobs thought through it, he knew who the user was. He knew what experience he wanted to give them, and that’s kind of the whole thing. When he created the first Apple Store, he perfected it in a warehouse. He looked at every angle, how lights was formed, what the material surface was. He thought about that experience he wanted to give when people walked into the store. Then he thought about the design of all the nuances. And then he goes to engineering and says, I want this. Make it happen. Right. And obviously, engineering is when you have that level of a funnel of thinking, you are always holding engineering accountable for a very different aspect, which is like, I want to give the best experience for the user, and this design is going to look this way. Now, do you need to be the best engineer in the room?

Probably not. Do you need to be the best marketing person? He was a great storyteller. He could bring it down to the world. And I think that is often something that’s not told as much. Now you put it in the marketing hat. Absolutely not. He knew what users care about, and he would tell that well. But the fact is there was a lot of scientific approach. And his process of as you kind of earlier shared this, that aspect is kind of very valid. Now, what’s also interesting is Elon Musk calls himself the chief designer at SpaceX.


And it’s fascinating how he picked that title out. I know many people there’s a lot to read on that line. He’s the best technically the best person in space. I know there are so many other people there’s technically the best engineer on that system. Probably not. But the way he thinks about, again, what’s the vision for the system that he’s building and then percolate down and then get everything done, which is why the designer word, and I call it big d-thinking, big design thinking and not the small craft thinking. And that’s kind of where these people always played.

The Musk example is very interesting, too, because people have trouble trying to fit him into what he does. He’s incredibly technical, he’s incredibly intelligent, so much so that it’s challenging to have discussions with him because he’s thinking at a different level as a great interview experience. I watched and it’s actually tough to watch sometimes these ones Lex Friedman, who’s MIT robotics professor and designer and doing some very interesting stuff. And he’s a great podcast, talk some really amazing people. And Elon on and he talked about how do you think about where it can go wrong? What is it that you do in designing for failure, that if maybe it won’t work, that we aren’t going to get to Mars? Something that was the premise of the question. And it was the most fantastic thing to watch as an interview, because Musk just turned and you could see his eyes were like they’re darting back and forth. He’s formulating it. And the fact that Friedman gave just said, don’t say a word, didn’t cut them off, didn’t try and fill it. It felt like 30 seconds. It was probably ten. But that’s an eternity. When you’re watching an interview, you’re like, is the microphone still on?

You’re literally like, you’re not sure if they’re still on. And he’s like, well, we don’t think about that because there is no option. Failure is not something that we designed for. And he began this, but the fact that he went through and he was looking for the correct answer, not the fastest answer that would sound good on microphone. And it’s a very unique thing. Now he’s a Polarizing figure. Obviously, it’s a challenge to have a conversation about what’s good or bad about Elon Musk’s with a lot of folks. Actually, here’s another one. I bring this up because we did talk about this. You may know this text and this professor. Well, yes, which is why I said I wanted to wait until we got into ethics. I’m a student myself of stuff that BJ Fogg has brought to the world. But before we understood the impact, and now that we do understand the impact and he himself has almost had to kind of put a label warning on his own work because he sort of understands how much he empowered people to take it and do things that were not healthy or potentially not ethical with it.

Let’s talk about ethics of design.

No, it’s interesting. On a side note, actually, my master’s thesis was either studying persuasive technology, which is obviously at that point, or was human robotic interaction. I decided to take human robotic interaction. But I’ve actually been a student of persuasion, how systems like that can be built right if done right, obviously. I mean, because design the way to it just the same way as you kind of showed the coin trick. There’s a lot of illusion to design. There’s a lot of ways that we can get people to do what they want to do and how they want to get them to. If you’re getting them to do it for the right thing, obviously it is what the user intended to and where they got to. I think that’s all ethical when you want them to get to things that you intend to, but not them, probably. And that’s kind of where it gets into the other side. There’s so much that’s gone with the advent of technology. We have just seen a lot of other social aspects of it. Much deeper topic much. But personally, for me, I’ve always tiered here, at least as a firm.

We always said that we want to solve life problems, not lifestyle problems. And there’s still so much more opportunity. But on the highest level. I mean, I’d rather get a student to study better on a doctor to kind of be effective more or financial transactions to happen faster than actually trying to get you to do something or buy something that I don’t that is not right for you or anywhere. There’s a lot of other aspects to that. But the power of design is very much there for us to do anything we want. You’ve seen that over the last four or five years where triggering of polarizing news can get more engagement, getting you to click on a fake queue can get you more clicks. Again, it’s easy to do that because I control the environment that you’re in, and therefore I can manage that. But at the same time, I must say what some of the firms are now doing as a stand to kind of give more power to the consumer and power to them. I actually feel that there is more corporate responsibility that’s coming in. But overall, I just think there is a larger system that people need to realize that technology is getting more powerful and tools that are available are getting much more powerful. And we just need to know that we have to be aware of it.

Yeah. And I’ve applauded the work really, of Tristan Harris and the center for Human Technology and sort of that group that’s wrapped around it. And there are so many people that have really come to the fore who were ultimately all students of Fog and those practices. And I think that’s a good thing. In the same way that if we look at what Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky did in winning a Nobel Prize for economics as behavioral psychologists, that in the same way you talk about design, that it’s matching the business to the human experience and measuring it, that we’re going to use a lot more science to describe the art than the art. And that’s pre Kahneman and Tversky, all we thought was that this was art, that this was anecdotal information. And we were lucky more than right on describing what was happening. And when we took and we put science and data behind it, all of a sudden you can really understand what was going on in that behavior. And I truly like, that user experience is ultimately behavioral understanding, right?

Absolutely. Because I think users have intent, and intent kind of reflects in behavior. Users have trained behavior. So there’s a lot of those elements that you kind of do that. So it’s truly a cusp of that’s why I say you have to be a psychologist, you have to be a student of cultures. As an anthropologist, you need to look at be a technologist, you need to understand. So there’s so many aspects that you bring together to make that magic happen. But, yeah, it’s a powerful system that many companies and I see a lot more companies becoming much more aware of it. It’s just that they don’t get it right because they go in with one quick solution and so on, so forth. But it is a big mindset shift. But once it’s done and people understand that there’s a whole science behind it and a structure behind it, there’s a lot of opportunity.

Yeah. And it’s an interesting mix of, like you said, such a multidisciplinary thing. And even like, marketing campaigns are very much wrapped around creating an experience. And so the words we use, they’re so simple when you get them. But the work to get there. So that really can bring up the question of who was the reason why the first Apple really went to high output? Was it Chia Day because they were the marketing agency behind it? Was it the team that fed them the right data to give them that campaign? There were so many players. But in the end, internally, especially as an organization, when you’re creating a software centric business, user experience design is now fundamental. And this is not something that you can go on to Upwork and Fiverr and find. Absolutely.

I think you can get a lot of people on Fiverr. I think before we start this conversation, anybody with a computer and Internet can be a user experience designer. But to become a really good one in that it takes a lifetime and you still learn. And the technology, as I said, you kind of really broaden up and then also build the depth. And it’s more importantly, I think, something that you called out, which I want to kind of further elaborate on. It’s a very collaborative profession, and it’s not necessary that the most creative person is somebody with a designer title. It’s actually the system of bringing people together, ideating, building it,  iterating on it. It is a collective process, and it’s one of those professions where literally two plus two is not edited. It’s multiplicative in a lot of ways. So therefore, it’s actually a fascinating thing. And I’ve seen so many people who go through a design process, they’re like, man, this is so fun. And I’m like, absolutely, it should be fun because you’re getting your creative juices, you’re trying out a lot of things, and you’re doing it with a larger group of people. And then when you build a structure around it. It kind of gets much more engaging.

Let’s talk about the bringing this to the market as a playbook now. So the user experience design is a practical playbook to fuel business growth. Fantastic introduction to what people can do. And it is such a well laid out, full, true experience in the playbook. Everywhere I went, it made sense. So I can imagine the work that went into creating this has had to have been a lot of hours, a lot of iteration, and a lot of design. But first of all, it’s beautifully done, just visually. And the reading of it, it’s like they say about user experience, when user experience is really great, no one notices. When it’s not great, it’s immediately obvious.


So talk about the book and what drew you to put the time towards this? And I’m going to tell people, get the bloody book is fantastic.

To be honest, the book was never an intent on our end. It all started with I really was about eight years back, I was fairly frustrated in my career because I had spent close to that point about a decade trying to build that user centricity in organizations and teams that I’ve worked on and felt that my career was fairly mediocre. I didn’t have much to show. I had a lot of effort, a lot of activity, and I was just concerned at the same time, you look at the apples, the Airbnb, the Zappos, and all the folks that have actually been able to unravel and deliver much more impact to user centric practices. And I said, I really need to go back and look at it. And I said, either I keep to this profession, in which case let’s go back and understand and study why some companies are able to get there and why some companies are not able to get there. And that became my pursuit for a large level and to do that UXReactor as a firm was created and with my brother, who’s also the co founder and also the very good researcher and this line of work.

And through that last seven years that the company existed, we ran a lot of experiments. We worked with a lot of companies. We kind of understood what are the key things that make it work. And then we finally came down to what was in our we call it the BVD system to drive business value by design. There are four key aspects that need to be thought through, which is the right people in the right process, following the right process with the right mindset in the right environment. And that is what makes a good company in this process of being user centric versus a great company. And what we then started realizing is that we would get questions that a lot of our stakeholders would ask, like, how do I build a team? What’s the structure that goes into it, how do I build a carrier for them? How do I build a roadmap around a user that I care about? There’s a lot of these things that started coming up and we’re like, man, we need to probably write something about it because there’s so much more need. Nine out of ten companies don’t follow any of this structure, though they intend to.

And so we said, let’s write it down and put it out in the public domain. And that’s when the book came to be. And it was also one of the pandemic babies in the pandemic. We just saw every company going tech first, digital first, and then struggling. Right. And education is a classic example. Like just throwing tech on it doesn’t help because what ends up on the user’s side is they have half a dozen to a dozen systems to interact with, one for assessment, one for instruction, one for textbooks. And then that student is having to deal with uncomplicating it, and then experience is the best way to kind of navigate through that and you realize that’s not happening. So the book kind of ended up there. And then we said we wanted to create it with an intent to be a playbook where people from a different perspective business leaders, design leaders, practitioners, collaborators, everybody could take away something from it as a play and then use it immediately. So that’s how the whole construct came to be. And then we took a lot of our tribal common knowledge that we had within our own playbook at the organization and then put that out there.

So that’s kind of how the book ended up becoming a book. And so far as we’ve gone through our own process of iterating and testing with different users who we actually want to leverage, that we hope would leverage this book. And so far, we have only heard great things. And that’s all we are traded on it, and we kind of built on it as soon as it publishes. I’m looking forward to kind of getting the reaction and getting out there. I believe it’s sometime early May.

This is the thing that we see often, right? Is that going I think of Gene Kim and the team that worked with them on the Phoenix project and ultimately the DevOps handbook. The industry may still misuse the phrase DevOps. I see people all the time. They’re like DevOps engineer too, right? Like, that’s their title by HR, and it’s not really related to what they’re doing. In the same way that user experience design will get co opted and misused as a phrase, some poor person out there is labeled user experience designer three. You know, like they’re going to get ranked according to some HR band. But the work that went in the research, the patience that’s required to live the experience and then to take that same patience to bring it to the community through a written work. I loved how that played out in what you and everybody at UX Reactor have done. And like I said, this is the proof in even what I’ve seen. When you tell me it’s still in draft form, I figured it was going to come to be in basically word format like this. If this is draft, then I’ve never written a draft this good in my life.

It’s very well done.

Again, good to great concentration, and I think it’s good right now. And I think we are still trying to make it great, but that’s a perpetual I said we will keep evolving it. We will still have ideas. But more importantly, I think it’s a good resource that we have pulled together from our own experience and roughly everybody. It’s a collective effort. And I hope that even if one company gets to drive this success and that’s kind of the way we are looking at it. And that’s the reason why we want to make sure that more and more people are aware it’s just one of those professions in adolescence and we wanted to mature fast and then start delivering value fast in a way that most users actually. And again, think about it, we have so many interfaces we’re interacting with, and it should be much more easier. I think I have a vision in a decade from now, there will be so much technology, but they should be a simpler way of how we approach it. And you don’t have to go to like, again, I see all these tech companies going through certification programs, training programs.

I’m like professional services. I mean, your system, if it has to be explained, that means it’s not been designed well. Your system needs to be certified on for someone to use on. That means that you haven’t spent the time perfecting it. And it’s just one of those things that I say that and then also because the last two decades has been much more web centric, mobile centric all that is what’s going to come and play in the next decade. So it’s actually a fascinating time altogether.

It is. It is a really wondrous time with the opportunity. Obviously counterbalanced with what we talked about was sort of the ethics and the risks that we do present. But I’d say the dominant work that’s happening is so positive and so just doing great things. What we can do to bring these technologies and these platforms and these opportunities to other parts of the world as well that are underrepresented. And this one I want to tap on before we finish up Satyam is cultural representation in user experience design because I fall victim to this all the time. Right. I typically speak to a dominantly North American market, and so you can use a cadence of speech that’s specific. You can use everything. Platform design, referring to stories. I can talk about a New York Bank or a West Coast health company. It’s almost ingrained into me. It’s all sort of a coded bias of speech pattern and experience design. But then when I speak to audiences that are in the UK, I know to refer to Barclays instead of bank of New York, Maryland. And I know to refer to Santander and to think about the NIH instead of Medicare.

Like, I’ve learned those things. When it comes to user experience design, how do you deal with geo experience locality?

It’s that inbuilt curiosity in a lot of ways and that’s kind of what you tap into. It is a global profession. So if I’m trying to build something for, let’s say Sapsahar in Africa, you either have to go and observe and be immersed in it like one like them, or you kind of go and talk to people there or you kind of find someone who’s kind of much more aware of that. Again, it’s a user research is such a critical facet that how do you understand those aspects or you do all of it and triangle. It’s no different from again, good user research is no different from an awesome intelligence analyst in the military or a financial analyst because you’re connecting dots, you’re kind of connecting this is what this person thinks in this context. This is what it is. And then you kind of build your hypothesis and build your experiments around that. And that’s the scientific part of building experiences. But first of all, being aware that a SubSaharan African student studying is different from the inner city student versus somebody has high end in an expensive neighborhood, because even the subtleties of getting internet set up or even the devices that are around you, all those things can become different contexts and situations.

But again, just being aware that the world is different around you and you are curious to see how they are different, well, itself open up so much opportunity and a lot of times people just go in and I assuming that what you think is the right thing. And I’ll end this with actually an interesting story with my professor when I was in grad school and he finished a class and then I went to him and I said, that just seems like common sense. And he said, absolutely it is common sense. But remember what’s common for you is not common for somebody who’s in the other part of the world or your grandmother. And that is what who we are. We are understanding what common sense is. And that’s actually a fascinating thing that stayed with me all through. And that’s why I’m always looking for what’s common sense. And when somebody thinks it’s common sense, that means I’ve given to them what they want in the context that they wanted.

That’s a perfect way to round it up and leave the assumptions at the door because it is a beautiful and sad to me, your approach is really great and I’ve learned a ton from you. I’ve definitely learned like just even when I’ve had a chance to read through the book. It’s going to be great so I’ll make sure to get this out. Hopefully not too long from the time that people are watching this and listening to it they’ll be able to get so I’ll have links and make sure to share it out. If people do want to get connected to you Satyam what’s the best way to do that?

Linkedin is the best way to connect on there’s also we’re going to create a small community for the playbook I believe. Uxdplaybook.com it’s going to launch around the same time on the book launches so again there’ll be different ways to connect. I really want to kind of be as available and approachable as possible as people are in this journey but yeah I think LinkedIn is a good way if they also can reach out through the company uxreactor.com so there’s different ways to get there. I’m pretty sure if someone wants to truly get to me I’m sure they will find a way but the easiest way is to get on LinkedIn and just send me a note.

There you go folks to follow the links down below because I make sure I have them in the show notes and of course on the YouTube channel this has been really great Satyam. It’s been a real pleasure and I look forward to success for you with the book and with UX reactor and hopefully we’ll get a chance to catch up again in future and here on the other side once it’s out in the world, how the community building around it because that is an interesting aspect that I’d actually like to explore again in future. So thank you very, very much.

Absolutely. Thank you so much, Eric. I appreciate it and have a great rest of the day.

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Bestselling author Fabrice Testa is an exponential thinker, innovator, serial tech entrepreneur, business angel investor, trusted advisor, public speaker, author, and highly sought-after mentor. He has successfully founded, co-founded, or participated in the launch of multiple companies that created hundreds of jobs and generated multi millions in revenue. 

He is the creator of the Superpreneur Blueprint framework and has developed a set of cutting-edge strategies and tactics that enable super-entrepreneurs to materialize crazy ideas, build breakthrough ventures, and solve the world’s biggest problems. After helping more than 100 companies excel in their fields, Testa is making this proven methodology publicly available in Super-Entrepreneurship Decoded to help super-entrepreneurs everywhere transform our lives—and the planet.

This was such dynamic and informative chat. I highly recommend the book (which I read multiple times because it was that good) so make sure to follow the links to grab a copy yourself. 

Super-Entrepreneurship Decoded: https://amzn.to/3pYlL6M 

Connect with Fabrice at https://fabricetesta.com 

Follow Fabrice on Social Media here:







Super Entrepreneur Instagram

Transcript powered by Happy Scribe

Welcome to the show. My name is Eric Wright. I’m the host for your DiscoPosse podcast. I hope that you liked this one as much as I did when I recorded it with Fabrice Testa. Fabrice is an author, an entrepreneur or an investor, and somebody who genuinely is using technology and business to bring good to the world. It was such a fantastic opportunity to really delve into his book Super Entrepreneurship Decoded. I loved it so much that I actually read it multiple times in preparation for the interview, and it was just that good.

So you definitely got to get a copy. Hit the links that are on the website episode page. You can also hit us up on the YouTube definitely reach out. I’m going to be running a contest on my YouTube channel. If you want to get a copy of this book, drop me a comment on the YouTube channel. It’s YouTube.com/c/DiscoPossePodcast and I’m going to be giving away a bunch of copies of this fantastic book. So just check the YouTube page for the details on that one. All right.

And before, speaking of, how do we make stuff like that happen? It goes without saying that the fine folks that make this podcast happen include people like VM Software who have been longtime supporters and who I support because they have a fantastic set of products. As far as data protection goes, they got you covered. Everything you need for your data protection needs, whether it’s in the cloud, whether it’s in containerized platforms, whether it’s SAS, whether it’s on premises, virtualized, even physical servers, all that stuff needs to be backed up and needs to be saved from things like ransomware and all sorts of naughty things that are going on in the world.

So, it could just be Pete in accounting that accidentally deletes a file. It could be somebody who erases a team’s message that shouldn’t have gone away. So get that stuff protected. All right, just go to vee.am/DiscoPosse and it’s just that easy, vee.am/DiscoPosse. And speaking of protection, make sure you protect your data when it’s in transit as well. Easy way to do that is you can use great products like ExpressVPN. The reason why I use VPN is because I like to make sure that I can do my best to protect my identity, protect my data.

And also it’s just fantastic for web testing. If I need to test like, remote location to make sure that it works as expected from different regions. So it’s really, really great. I use ExpressVPN for that very purpose. If you want to check it out yourself, go to tryexpressvpn.com/DiscoPosse and you can get it for yourself. All right. This is Fabrice Testa. I hope you like the show. He is amazing. Get his book.

Hey. Hello. It’s Fabrice Testa and you are listening to DiscoPosse podcast.

This is perfect. What a great way to start the year. This is fantastic. So Fabrice, thank you very much. I’ve been engulfed in the school of Fabrice now for a while. I was really pleased when I had the opportunity to put you on as a potential guest. And I really enjoyed. First, I read your most recent book, which is the Super Entrepreneurship Decoded. Fantastic book. Went a lot through the rest of your history, of course. And leading up to that book, you have so much to bring and you’ve brought so much to the world already.

But for folks that are brand new and who don’t already know you. Fabrice, if you don’t mind, let’s just get a quick bio. We’ll talk about the book and a really good exploration of this concept of the superpreneur.

Yes. Thanks Eric, for welcoming me on this show. Yes. So I’m Fabrice Testa, and actually I’m Belgian. I have also some origins from Italy. So I live in Belgium, but I work mostly. My business is mostly in Luxembourg, so in Europe and I have, of course, travel all over the world during my career. And basically I’m an entrepreneur. So I co-funded different companies in the space sector in the digitalization. One of them achieved 100 million Euro turnover, 200 people. Then this company was sold and after that I funded also a company in the satellite service company, Luxembourg.

And after three years that company was also sold. And after the sale of this company, I had no new entrepreneurial projects. So I started some new life as an investor, a business center. So I did different investments again in different technologies, space, artificial intelligence, ICT, et cetera. And then, I started also to be a coach and mentor to help other entrepreneurs because I wanted to give back somehow and to help other entrepreneurs by sharing my experience. And let’s say those successful strategies and tactics that was working for me.

I also created by that time a blueprint that I call the Superpreneur Blueprint to help entrepreneurs to become what I call superpreneur. And maybe we will discuss more about this and to solve some big problems by materializing crazy ideas. And actually I met a young Dutch entrepreneur in 2017 and he came with a crazy idea. So for me it was the opportunity to also be again involved in a kind of superpreneur venture. So we co-founded with other people in 2019, the company called Maana Electric that is also mentioned in my book.

And now this company is working well. So today I spent my time between this company as a co-founder and shareholder. I also spent time mentoring, coaching, speaking at several events to explain this super entrepreneurship movement that I launched. And I wrote a book, this book, Super-Entrepreneurship Decoded, because I think that one thing was missing in the Superpreneur Blueprint. It was a method, because the Superpreneur Blueprint gives the core pillars, the guiding principles and the key characteristic of this kind of venture, but it was not telling how to do it.

And so I try to analyze what super entrepreneurs and super achievers, how they do it. What is their secret to succeed? Why others fail? And in the book, I unveil five secrets that I think can help entrepreneurs to maximize their chances of success. Of course, it’s not a guarantee of success, but I think it’s a way to maximize the chances of success. They put all these five secrets around a method that I call the crazy method. So that’s a bit of my story and the origin of the book.

I really appreciated the beautiful use of acronyms. So, we’ll talk about crazy as a method. People think, is he meaning literally crazy? But it’s a perfect pairing because it allows us to assign a memorable name to it. And it’s not far off of, you know, these real sort of crazy and moonshot type of ideas. If we take it in this literal sense of the word and then a pathway to execution that’s been tested and proven that you’re bringing this methodology, you’re bringing a framework to the world that you’ve lived and experienced, which is, I think, one of the best things that people need to appreciate about the book.

This is not a Harvard Airplane NBA guide that you read between New York and Boston flights. This is a lived experience that’s brought down and distilled into effective, meaningful steps that you can implement with great analogous references that are meaningful and helpful. And, of course, likes to bring your personal experience. I trust it. I think Nassim Taleb says the greatest way to be a philosopher King is to be a King first and then a philosopher second. Too many times these days, when you go through the business section or these sort of self help sections, it’s a lot of people who are straight from school and their PhD year was writing from research.

And while it’s a beautiful thing, ten years later, when they go back and revisit their early work, they’re like, ‘Oh, wow. I was naïve a lot of times in what was written’. Your book, first of all, tells a beautiful story. And like I mentioned before, we talked, it is you telling the story. It really comes through as a person telling me how to achieve this from their own experience. And I said, it’s a refreshing change because I’ve read a lot of books of this style that aim to do this, and they often come back as the same three things that I already sort of knew, and it’s a little bit reinforcing, but it was very well done.

So I honestly can’t talk enough. We’ll have links, of course, in all the show notes for people, they should absolutely pick up the book.

Thanks, Eric. I really appreciate it. It’s always nice to hear nice words like this, but I think I wrote the book as I would like to read a book, because I also read a lot of non fiction books, maybe between 50 and 60 books, you know, per year. I like book support, entrepreneurship, business, etc. Some are very good, and some, I think are less good because it’s true that there are a lot of, maybe they tend to have some frameworks, et cetera. But you don’t see really how to apply it.

And what I wanted with the book is to give a very simple framework because I think the framework is very simple in essence. Now the difficulty is to apply it in real life, and it’s why I provide in the book worksheets so that people can apply, let’s say the principles of the book, try to answer a lot of questions and try to put in practice the principles of the book. And it’s also why I’m just launching by end of this month, a companion course to the book, which will be called The Crazy Method Launch online course.

And it’s an online coaching program on twelve weeks. Every week there will be a module and we are mostly following, let’s say, the method which is in the book, but I’m going really to dive deep into each of them, which of course, I could not do with the book, because in the book you are obliged a bit to scratch the surface, unfortunately. Because the book will be indigenous and will be much too big. But with the course, I think the people will have really the opportunity to go really, to dive deep into the principles of the book, to put in actions the method that I propose in the book, and hopefully like this, they can really materialize their breakthrough potential.

They can really have a solid plan if, for example, they want to launch this kind of breakthrough venture that I’m suggesting in the book.

The thing that we need to look at, too, and that’s why I appreciated the references throughout and very specific stories that are called on from other parts of the industry as well, is the proof in execution elsewhere. Right. It gives us a chance to have a reason. Why is the book built to last? One of the most popular ones is because it’s five familiar brands that we know, and that familiarity breeds the belief that I can achieve it. There’s something to be said about this, but when you get into the moonshot areas and these very big ideas, it’s a little more difficult to find meaningful, real existing references.

Looking back now, it’s funny that in two years, three years, you’ll look through those stories in the book and they’ll be like it’ll seem obvious, but at the time when you’re writing this, of course, these are still moonshots. We look at Elon Musk, not just in a single moonshot, but in multiple ventures that he’s achieved. You, of course, coming from supporting and investing in space technologies and being in that ecosystem, there’s a lot of these sort of hidden, there’s a hidden world that’s existing that most people are not going to be aware of until it’s already on their phone or wherever it is.

They just take for granted all of this other work that’s happening to support the thing that makes the news or that makes the big story. So I just realized, too, by actually coincidence, I was wearing a SpaceX shirt. My wife and I are both space fanatics. And last time I got a chance, we actually went to watch the Delta Four Orion launch in Florida. It was fantastic. There’s nothing like an in-person launch. And being aware of how seemingly unrealistic that idea is to most people and why the super entrepreneur has to and is somehow able to put that aside and say, this needs to get done.

And despite advice and despite doubt, we’re going to do things to get back to like this, it can be done. So maybe let’s start there describe to me Fabrice, what is the super entrepreneur or the superpreneur?

Yes, I think it’s a good question indeed, to start somehow the conversation. What I call super entrepreneurs are people that they want to solve some big problems. Because I explained in the book that in 2007 we enter in what I call ‘The Edge of Exponential Acceleration’. So everything is really going very fast. Mostly technology is going exponentially, which is a good thing, because today we have many technologies that have achieved a good level of maturity, and they are used by this kind of innovators and inventors to build some amazing solutions.

But at the same time, problems are also accelerating at an exponential pace of change. If you look at climate change and unfortunately, you know, these disasters in Colorado, for example, I strongly believe that this is a consequence of climate change. And we see that we have now more wildfires, more flooding et cetera. In Belgium, for example, we have terrible flooding in the summer. So I think that we must do something. And unfortunately, most of the conventional solutions have proven their limits. So it’s time for radical solutions, what we call crazy ideas, crazy solutions, solutions that initially seem impossible.

But what I try to always explain is that today at the edge of exponential acceleration, nothing is really impossible. And at the edge of the exponential acceleration, impossible becomes possible. And this kind of entrepreneurs, I call them super entrepreneurs because they probably believe that nothing is really impossible. And they are ready to dedicate ten years, 20 years of their lifetime to solve such kind of big problems and to come with some amazing solution that will solve this problem. And, for example, to give a very concrete example to your audience.

There is, for example, this guy in the book that I described, Joseph Pescounty. He is Italian but living in Barcelona, in Spain, and he discovered that he could use some technology used for 3D print human tissues, et cetera. That he could use the same technology to 3D print food and so now he’s using this technology to 3D print food. Imagine that today is, of course, still a very small scale. But imagine that tomorrow he can build machines, he can scale these machines to produce tons of food and 3D print tons of food.

This could be really a big solution for solving hunger around the world, because today, unfortunately, in the world many people, they have only access to one meal per day. So I think at the 21st century, we are always saying we live extra ordinary times, et cetera, which is true. But how can we admit that today in our civilization that some people, they have only access to one meal per day? So I think we need to come with some solutions. And it’s not with the traditional solutions that we will do it.

But with this kind of breakthrough solutions, it will be possible. And so it’s why I call them super entrepreneurs. And just to be clear, I don’t want to oppose one kind of entrepreneur to another kind of entrepreneur. I’m an entrepreneur, and I respect all kind of entrepreneurship. It’s just that these kind of people, I think they are super because they want to really solve big problems, to dedicate a big part of their lifetime to this, to work on moonshot things that others may think are impossible.

When I met this young entrepreneur, Joost van Oorschot, that is also in the book that came with this idea behind Maana Electric. When I met him first, my first reaction was also to say, wow, it’s crazy. He wants to turn sand into solar panels into a machine. This is impossible. So my first reaction and I’m also in this movement. But my first reaction was to say that’s impossible. So our first reaction, because we have a linear mind is to say it’s impossible. And if we go to an exponential mind, then we see the thing is possible, because in the exponential world, you know, if you can go ten times, if you have ten doublings, it’s a grow of 1000.

If it’s 20 doublings, it’s a grow of 1 million, you know. If it’s 30 doublings, is 1 billion growth. So it’s going very fast. And today we see with this progress of technologies that many things are possible. So I think we need to have a mind shift and to really shift our perspective and see. Okay, if I would have a magic wand, how I will solve this problem. And it’s what I recommend to innovators if you would like to solve this problem, what would you do? Don’t think that with possible solution.

Just imagine if you could do it or you will do it. Like, for example, I said this 3D printing machine, like we seen some science fiction movies, you know, that the food is printed or appears directly like this. And this is really something that we think with a magic wand that it could be possible. But today the reality is that it’s probably feasible and it will happen. I’m pretty sure that it will happen in the coming years that it will be at this time.

To take it back to this first principles thinking approach, which I think is obviously the fundamental to the folks that are achieving these sort of grand visions is because they’ve gotten rid of linear thinking. They have to shed the belief that everything is one to 1.1. It truly is this sort of zero to one. Go back to raw materials. And I think Elon Musk was recently on Alex Friedman podcast. He talked about that. The only way you can approach this is simply look at the costs of the raw materials, and the goal in the end, is always to the cost of manufacturing will be asymptotically close to zero above the raw materials.

And it’s just a matter of the work that you do to get closer to that raw material cost. And that’s ultimately what led to battery technologies. And we’re seeing this with solar. But you’ve proven it out right in that very idea that if you just said, well, we have to just make it slightly better than the current lithium manufacturing, right? That can’t be it. You had to go to what seems like a crazy idea, as Joost brings and say, okay, what if we actually could do this and then you realize you always could with the right, first mindset and then second, which is why the book is important, executing the approach in operations as well, because there’s lots of big ideas.

But then having the team, the growth, the understanding to financially survive to execution is where, it’s a long distance from idea to execution. So that’s why where do we learn this? Is it as rare as it seems to be able to have this thinking?

Yes, I think you are right, Eric. When I met again, when I met you the first time, I was thinking, okay, that’s impossible to transform sand into solar panels. All this will be impossible. But then I go just 1 minute after. Yeah, but let’s imagine that it can work. Okay. So I asked some people, do you think that it’s possible? And many people told me, look, it’s not against the laws of physics, in sand, you can find everything to transform it into Silicon and then into solar cells and glass.

So basically it’s possible from just a physique standpoint. And so this was for me, the confirmation. Okay, that’s probably possible. So now let’s dive a bit deeper into that. So I did my due diligence. I analyze more. I try to understand also the business model, et cetera. What was the plan? I was also impressed by your master plan. It’s a notion that I explain also in the book, what were the big goals, etcetera. And to be honest, we are just following the big milestones right now.

And then you are right. I think an idea remains an idea until it is materialized and so what I see so many times is entrepreneurs. They have a lot of ideas, et cetera. But they never take action, or if they take action, they take the bad action. So it’s why I always say first, you need to really know, okay, what do you want to achieve? What do you want to create in this world? What is your true purpose? Okay. And after that, you need to press your crazy ideas that these crazy ideas will really allow you to materialize somehow your big dreams and you have to dream big and bold.

Many people are unfortunately not audacious enough. These kind of super entrepreneurs or super achievers. They have dream. They have big dreams. They believe in their big dreams, and they are bold. They take the necessary actions to materialize their dreams. But you are right that the proper execution is key, because without a proper execution, without what I call a flawless execution, you cannot, unfortunately, materialize because these kind of moonshots are very complicated, to be honest, to be achieved, to be materialized. So it’s why it’s very important to have a flawless execution.

And these kind of super entrepreneurs and super achievers, they are master at execution. They really try to see anything that can help the business. And now the secret one of the secret to succeed this flawless execution is to have a good preparation. The preparation is key, but now you have not also to spend months and months just in preparation and never take action. So I think there is a good balance to have when you think that your plans are good enough, then you have to act and maybe to revise a little bit your plans, et cetera, iterate.

Of course, move forward because I see also a lot of entrepreneurs. They have big ideas. They create big plans, but at the end they have the fear to fail. Or maybe they try to perfection their plans, but at some point they never do it. And they have very nice pitch deck. Or they have very nice business plans, or they have even very nice products. But they never ask the customers about their products or they never try to sell their products. So they have fantastic products. But at some point they never question also the business case for the product.

Again, it’s nice to have big ideas, but you need to go from a big idea, from a dream to a plan and then to some execution. Again, it may seem very simple, and I think the basics of the business is simple. Business is what an entrepreneur is there to solve a problem with a product or service that you want to sell to some people and you make some profits. I think the basic of business are very simple. The realization is something which is more complicated because there are so many parameters and these kind of super entrepreneurs and super achievers, they have a holistic approach about how to manage the company and they try to minimize the flaws in every aspect of their business.

Now you bring up a very important point when without customer validation, this is quite often the death knell for product management and bringing products successfully to market, because if they wait too long before they expose to their buyer and their user and their true technical consumer, they go far down the path to what they believe is the correct thing to build or method to use. And then you have the double problem of number one. They’re now pot committed or too far invested into this. And so they then start to discount the customers ideas like, ‘oh, no, but you don’t understand. We know what we’re doing better. We built it.’

But then the counter problem exists now, Fabrice, where in moonshots, quite often the customer doesn’t exist in a way when you’ve got an idea, you have long plan as to when a customer will be able to test it. How does that gap get bridged in your experience dealing with very early emerging tech?

Yeah, that’s, of course, a good question. And it can be a problem, actually, it’s also something which is well known. And I re-explain also in the book is the technology adoption lifecycle. So initially I think for this kind of, because mostly what I describe in the book are what is called deep tech companies. So it’s really very long. Let’s say moonshot venture that will take probably 5 to 10, if not 20 years, because there is a lot of research and development up front, et cetera. And for these kind of deep tech companies, generally, what you need is to have the validation, at least a kind of validation or pre validation from early pioneers.

So early pioneers are really people that are visionary that love new things, et cetera. That maybe see beyond, they like futuristic things, et cetera. And let’s take the example of Lilium, for example. It’s a company also that I described in the book. What they want is to have a small electric plan to make inter regional, let’s say, or intercity flights. So this will be perfect. It’s a bit like also Uber Air. So it’s these kind of companies that want to make some flight taxis, et cetera.

And you are right. Is there today customers? No. But there are some people that they may question some people and say, look, if this would be available, will you take it? Will you be able to pay for it? And I think there are many people that will say, yeah, I love Uber Air. That for example, in LA, where there is a big traffic jam, maybe I would have the possibility to fly instead of going on the road. I will love it. And I will be ready to pay for it.

So I think you can always find some people that at least validate your, let’s say, your proposition. Now, the difficulty for this kind of companies is that after two pioneers or what we call the early majority that will adopt, let’s say, their product, it will be to go to the mass market. And they might be more complicated. But, yeah, it’s all the difficulty of creating a business that can scale et cetera. But there are some, of course, fully, some strategies to do this. But I think in the case of Lilian, for example, they now went on the stock market.

I think it’s on the Nasdaq, their value at 1.5 billion. So the market believes in what they do. And I think there is a strong, let’s say, thinking among the population that, yes, this kind of solution at some point will take off, which is the right word will take off as long as, for example, the barriers related to air regulations, et cetera will be removed. But early validation is very important. And I like to give a very simple tip to start up, which is the Starbuck tip.

So if you have an idea, you go into Starbucks and you ask someone, ‘Look, I pay you your latte, but you spend ten minutes with me. I explain to you what I want to do, and you just give your honest feedback about what I want to do. If you think that it’s completely crazy, tell me that it’s completely crazy. If you think that you will never pay for it or that it will never work. Just let me know if you think that it’s amazing. Just let me know, et cetera.’

But you know what? Recently, a company in Luxembourg. I met them in an event and they talk about this idea. And I said, Did you validate your idea? “Oh, no, we don’t know exactly yet. We have not talked with potential customers yet, et cetera”. And I told them, look, go into a coffee shop and do this, and they did. And they receive an incredible validation of their solution. And many people said, look, if this would exist, it would be fantastic. And since then, they just won some prices, et cetera.

And they started doing well, because now they are convinced that there is a real market behind. So I do believe that early market validation is very important. But you are right that for this kind of companies, it’s not always easy. I think they have to focus on the pioneers, the early adopters, if at least they have this validation, it’s already a good sign. But after they will have some challenges, of course, for sure.

And I think an important thing that obviously plays out in the book. And with all the work you’re doing and the upcoming courses is, I often call it framework over firepower. That the old saying goes that plans are useless, but planning is essential and being able to adjust pivot, deal with changes in inputs. But if you do not have a framework in which you can apply these methods and you’re lucky more than you’re right in the execution. And this is the belief that we can just sort of throw.

If I scale my engineering team by 100, then I will suddenly be 100 times more productive. And it’s the mythical man month, as they often used to call it a mythical person month, of course, but more politically correct now, because you cannot just throw human firepower at it or money firepower necessarily and have it scale. The framework is incredibly important because then it becomes the methodology that anyone in your team can apply and that it also comes from vision and principle of the company. And I guess when you’re creating your own framework and you’re using your own method here Fabrice or you’re looking to entrepreneurs, especially as an angel investor, what is it that you look for in that, this is an idea and I trust these people to be able to scale towards this solution.

Look, before I make an investment. I use what I call the four T’s. And it’s not because my name is Testa. It’s around the T. And again, I like acronyms et cetera. But here it’s very mnemonic system for me to remember what is important. The first tier is technology. So is this technology really something breakthrough? Is it really something unique? Can this technology really create a big value? So that’s the first tier that I look into. Then I look at the second T, which is traction. And for me again, traction means market.

Is there a big market enough for this? Now, referring back to the previous question, sometimes it may be a bit complicated, but at least, is there some early pioneers, early adopters that, let’s say, that are quite excited about this solution and it’s what I call the traction. Then the third tier is the team. Is there a team able to materialize this big idea within this big market? Because for me, this is essential. It’s the execution. Is the team available today or maybe with some other people to execute the vision?

And then the fourth tier is the timing. Is it the right timing for it? Is it too early or is it too late? It’s a notion that I explain also in the book because I think this is really paramount. And there is a famous person that, unfortunately, I forgot his name. But he did an analysis of many ventures. What were their success factors, et cetera. And among, let’s say, all these startups et cetera. I think the video is available on YouTube. He found that, actually, timing was the key success factor.

So yeah, because why? Because sometimes some people, they have a very good idea, but they come too early and they are going to burn a lot of money before the market is ready. It’s maybe a bit the case, for example of Lilium, that I was talking about previously because I think they have a fantastic solution. But today the market is not fully ready, so they need a lot of cash. And it’s why, for example, they did an IPO to have enough cash. If you are too late for the market, the market is already over, and that’s done.

I think probably you will have some late people that might, let’s say, what we call the late majority that might eventually buy your solution. But the market is over. So it’s finished. So I think the proper market, the proper timing is very important. And what I have observed is that most of these super entrepreneurs, they are able to really sense, ‘Okay. What are the moods of the time? When is the right timing for it? And they launch the solution at the right timing. For example, I think Elon Musk, he was a master in that when he launched Tesla.

I think he really perceived that there was something missing on the market, that it was a time for electrical vehicle. But there was a need for some new kind of electrical vehicle, et cetera. He was right when he launched SpaceX. And you have dealt with SpaceX. It’s also in the right timing because there was all the start of the new space, et cetera. There was many projects of multi constellation, et cetera. And he was right to say, okay, if I can have a solution, which is maybe cheaper, et cetera, I can give a boost into this new space edge.

So I think the timing is very important. So I use these four T’s, the technology, I have the right technology, the right market, the right team, and the right timing. And for me, these are the basics after that. Of course, there are many things, but I think these are the four basics. And if at least a company has these four green lines into these four pillars, then for me, I can try to investigate a bit more.

Yeah, the timing is very interesting, and it’s often, it’s difficult to know until you run the other side of it. But if we take anecdotal experience, combine it with data, and I believe that we are going to be better. And we are today better at predicting that timing and ability to execute into that market. Of course, I brought up Built to Last. The funny thing about Built to Last is most of the stories in Built to Last actually led to pretty deep failures, years after the book had come out because the markets completely shifted away.

And it was sort of the idea that while they were successful in this pivot of those companies, they then failed to pivot soon after, and they suffered because of the belief that it was now stabilized. And they languished what they believed they already achieved what they needed to do to survive. But survival, like most things, is a continuous effort, especially in business when you’ve got funding. In the end, they often say it’s like startups fail for two simple reasons. The money runs out or the founders give up.

Yeah. Exactly. Dispute between the founders, or they give up or the lack of cash. Yes, these are the two main reasons, for sure.

But the four T’s that you talk about are the reason why the second part will occur most likely, right. Because we joke about pets.com and the original.com era. They all would have been fantastically valued and successful today, of course. But we’ve now succeeded on the backs of their failure. And I think that’s what as humans and as learners, in business and in tech, if we take those learnings and we say if given the right timing, if we change the approach, if we go back to first principles, could we bring this back to the market and be successful in it?

It’s good. I like that entrepreneurship as well as being celebrated. We saw a long period where it’s a bit of a tough word when you say the Uber of something. Right. Uber was this fantastic thing. But then it became synonymous with a negative view of the founder, of the specific founder. Right. That story was unfortunate because it truly did taint the incredible thing that was done to change the market to create something that just didn’t exist. And so I like that now entrepreneurship, we’re going to see more and more people that are successful with it, because I think further down towards the school system.

They’re studying these things instead of General Motors and Vodafone and the early technology creators as the case studies. They can now use case studies from the last five to ten years, which are fundamentally different than what we had 30 years ago, which were the case studies that were put in print and treated as the gospel of schooling, at least. And I’m curious on this one, Fabrice. Is there enough further down, even like in high school and secondary education, that is being done to make entrepreneurship a viable future for people?

I feel like we’re still not there yet, but I’m curious of your experience as well, talking to especially early founders.

Yes. I strongly believe that we need more entrepreneurship and not only to create profit ventures but also nonprofit ventures. I think anyway, the same principles of entrepreneurship can be applied also for nonprofit. So we need more people with an entrepreneurship spirit. I think when you have an entrepreneurship spirit, you can achieve anything you want in life because you have some capacity to convince others. You have some tolerance, let’s say, to risk. And maybe again, to things that are impossible. Things that are possible. And unfortunately, I don’t think that today the education system prepares enough for entrepreneurship, at least at primary or secondary school.

Of course, after that, there are some masters in entrepreneurship, et cetera. But yes, when the children are very young, I think there should be more kind of entrepreneurship, which is taught to our children. So, for example, to learn them, how to make great presentations, how to maybe have a small business which can be a profit or nonprofit, but at least to try to put in place of projects. So project management is very important. How to test their hypothesis, how to make experiments. That failure is not a problem.

I think there are many, many notions that could be to learn, for example, the exponential technologies. It may seem complicated, but it’s not, you know, a 3D printer is not so expensive and they could play with the 3D printer to build stuff, et cetera. AI, for example, coding in Python, et cetera. It’s also not expensive. So I think there are many things that could be taught in virtual reality, and that are sold today. This metaphors, et cetera. Again, just simple glasses, et cetera for virtual reality is not so expensive.

So I think today again, because in this age of exponential acceleration, we also seem a decrease of many costs, et cetera. So it’s the zero marginal cost society that has been well described by Jeremy Rifkin. And so, today many of these technologies are not so expensive if you want just to experiment a little bit. So why not to create in school some kind of living lapse where children, they can play with this. They can also try to put in place some projects and to pitch their projects in front of an audience, et cetera.

Maybe to fundraise also because sometimes they ask to the parents, or they ask to the teachers, but why not to the children themselves to try to fund raise for their school. And we should also learn the principles of personal finance to children because it’s something which is also not taught. And I think it’s unfortunate. So I think there is a lot to do in that space, unfortunately.

Yeah. You are speaking the words that I think of and said so well to this idea that there are things that we do not teach. And I guess there’s an assumption that the parents, it’s on the parents to teach these principles. But in the end, if it’s not promoted through the school system where they spend the majority of their time learning where that’s the most formal part of their day to day education. By the time the parents get around to it, they’ve spent a day learning or a day in some kind of programmatic method.

The last thing you’re going to do is suddenly, hey, let’s explore creating a pitch deck. And it’s funny that when I work with my kids and I recall here that you have kids as well.

Yeah. Four kids.

There you go. I know your number too. I’m the same. And my older kids when they would come to me for money, I would say, okay, what can we do? So that if I give you this money, we can turn it into a way that it can create more money. The first thing is what’s a repeatable thing that we can do. So rather than just go and buy this thing once and at least just to introduce critical thinking and them having to explain why they really wanted something to me.

They would often become more confident, like, okay, so I’ve got this idea. I need $40 for something. But I’ve got an idea. What I’m going to do is I’ve got a bunch of stuff in my closet. I’m going to maybe do a garage sale. And so I would say, well, tell you what, I’ll save you the trouble. We’re going to donate it. And I’ll give you the money so that we can win twice because you’re going to help somebody in need. And you’ve pitched your case.

I’m now your VC is when you give them, though, that freedom to create an idea and to push to get towards it, they feel good. And you can tell in the next thing they ask you. Now they’ve got an approach. They’ve got a method, right. So I think next time they go to their teacher, they’re going to say, I need more time on this. But here’s my proposal. I’m going to run a study group. This is entrepreneurship in the smallest way. I love that spirit, and you can see it in the kids.

They know it’s in them. It’s not for everybody for sure. There are many kids who they also think and act and learn differently. And we should support that as well. But for those kids that can take that to the next level, I really think we should be putting stuff in place to help them and nurture that.

No, I like it. And I try to do the same with my kids. For example, one of my son said, ‘There is this business that I know some friends. They do it’, et cetera. I said, you can do it, but I need some capital to start. I said, ‘Look, I will make your sponsor. I will give you the initial money and then you have to try. Then if you make profit, that’s fine. And let’s see how it works’, et cetera. I like it. But you are right.

The parents, of course, that maybe are educated can do it. But many parents probably are not businessmen, or they are not entrepreneurs. So maybe they just don’t think or they don’t have the knowledge to learn to their children. And it’s why at some point, the school should try to learn this kind of principles to the young generation, because I strongly believe that we need and it’s all, you know, my mission. I try to elevate a new generation of young entrepreneurs because I think that entrepreneurs can really shape a better future for humanity.

I think it’s through entrepreneurship, through building new things, et cetera, that we will build a better world, as I always say, build the world you love. I think if you wait, that others, build the world that you love for you, it will not happen. You have to do it. So what the book is also called with more doers more builders that can really shape a new world that will be better for the next generation. I’m a father of four kids, and what I want is that when I pass away, the world will be a bit better than the one that I knew because I want my children and my grandchildren that they live in a better world.

And so I think it’s a collective responsibility. So it’s why I call so this super entrepreneurship, a super entrepreneurship movement. I hope that many people will read the book. It will inspire them. Again, it’s not a guarantee of success, but maybe it will give ideas to some people. Okay. Maybe now it’s my time to start. I will follow some principle of the book, and I will try to take my chance because I think it’s never too late and we have one life. So why not to try at least?

Now, some people will fail. And I also had some failures like everyone that’s perfectly normal. But you need just to say, okay, I fail. What I can learn from this failure. And I can try differently next time. But maybe during this journey, some people will meet some investors or some team members, and maybe the next time they will do another venture with these investors or these team members, and it will work. So I think that’s normal. I think failure is part of the journey, but it’s not a reason to not try.

And I think we need more people that try new things, try to change how things are done. So we need more game changers at all, let’s say, levels of the society, we need more game changers, people that don’t accept the status course. I think there is too much acceptance. Let’s see how things are done. And again, at this age of exponential acceleration, everything is going fast and there is no reason why we could not do things differently and change how the world is going. Again, I think there are many things that are going well.

So I’m not pessimistic at all. I think we live probably much, much better than 100 years ago, for sure. But there are anyway, many problems. And I think it’s the collective responsibility of all of us to try to find some solutions to solve these problems.

Yes. An interesting quote is from Penn Jillette of the magician duo Penn and Teller. And he says two things are invariably true. The world is getting better and people think it’s getting worse. There’s an incredible amount of media attention to negative news stories. It’s very easy for that to spread and to us feel engulfed in this. But as you said by most measurable factors, we are better off economically, better off as far as distribution of food. There are many things we have a long way to go, and it happens by people like yourself and people like the superpreneurs and the people that are ready to give whatever to give back. We can continue to exponentially affect the world and at the same time making it commercially viable to run the organizations that can create these systems and solutions that can give back.

It’s an interesting dichotomy of celebrating sort of the free market capitalism to grow a business fund, development fund, research fund, delivery of new things, and then balance that with making sure that we give back. And I’m optimistic of what’s ahead. But I’m also careful about my optimism. Nothing is automatic for sure. You brought up a great point Fabrice. I’d like to quickly touch on this, too. Failure is an important part of the process, and we’ve all had levels of failure at some point in our life.

For those early entrepreneurs, do you find, is there any risk that a lack of exposure to failure can be problematic? I’d say for them as they begin this entrepreneur journey because they’re maybe not prepared for that first hit, that first thing that could set them back. How do you prepare somebody for adversity when they haven’t experienced it yet?

Yes. Look, let’s be honest. Who likes to fail? I think nobody. I think we all like to win and to never fail, that’s for sure. So I think unless you are wrong, I don’t know people that like to fail, but for me, it’s not a reason not to try. Now, all these super achievers or super entrepreneurs are they let’s say, overcome failures is through their massive transformative purpose. So they know what their true purpose is and they are fully committed to this. So it’s what gets them off the bed every morning and they know why they are doing this. For example, to solve hunger or to try to contribute to climate change, et cetera.

And it’s their strong motivation. So with this, they know that, okay. I have to try. I want to pursue my moonshot. It will take time. I will face setbacks. I will face many years. I will have failures, but I will need just to continue, because what I do is great. What I do can be great for humanity. So I need to just continue, even if I face some fears. I think for me their true purpose is their tool to always keep the true north and to always go, even if there is snow, there is rain, there is a lot of things.

They just continue on their track until they achieve their goals. And this is what I have observed. All these guys took Elon Musk and he waited probably 20 years before SpaceX is a great success. And many rockets just crashed and exploded. So he had a lot of failures. But he just continued. At some point he was almost broke. But he continued again and again. I think it’s just the secret. It’s only the secret to succeed is never give up. Like Winston Churchill was saying, never give up.

But I think it’s true. And these kind of super entrepreneurs and super achievers. They have a relentless, let’s say pursue of their dream or their objective. They will never give up until they reach their dream. Now, at some point, if they see that really, they need to take some other route to go to any way to achieve their dream, they will do it. They are not stupid too, so pivot or to try to change a bit and adapt the plans are also possible, for sure. But generally they are very relentless.

And even if everybody around said, look, you will never succeed, they just continue. Steve Jobs was well-known like this. He was saying, no, we will succeed, we will do it, et cetera. Everybody around was saying, no, it’s impossible. Again, it’s impossible. And he was saying, no, it’s possible. I think it’s really a question of mindset. And if you are fully convinced yourself, I think you can convince others. But if the founder says things that he will not succeed, I’m not sure that it’s going to work, et cetera.

How can he convince his team that it will work? So I think the best super entrepreneurs, they have a very strong belief that what they do will succeed and it’s all. They can convince investors, they can convince team members, they can convince customers because they say no, I’m sure it will work, it will work, et cetera. It’s what I’ve observed. I have known some guys, they were incredible. Even if everybody was believing that it will never work, they will continue. No, I’m sure it will work.

And they were demonstrating why it will work, etc. And they can bring some convincing arguments. Just people follow them. Why? Because dreaming is nice too. And so you try to also believe in these dreams too, because you want to be part of the big dream, because if you don’t have a big dream yourself, but you want to help someone else, maybe to make their dream come true. So I think that’s something which is fascinating.

Oh, definitely. And the most important thing and why I will implore people to pick up the book. And I’ll say that either through the blog or through social media, I want to make sure that people get access to this. So I’m going to offer up to buy up a few copies myself on people’s behalf and make sure that I get more people exposed to this. If you take something that’s executed successfully at scale and bring it down to a human level, that’s what makes day to day entrepreneurship accessible.

If we use the practices and the successes from incredible moonshots and bring them down where there’s less risk and there’s less things but use the methods. This is fantastic. It’s much harder to take traditional business methodologies and then scale them into an area where no one’s been exposed before. This is why it’s such a beautiful opportunity to take the lessons from the book and then put them into day to day. And when I read it, it immediately made me want to revisit a few things that I’ve got active.

I’m an advisor to a start up, and I’m doing other things, and it just lit up an incredible creative spark in me to shed the unnecessary things that are being worked on. And let’s go to core principles. Let’s go to what needs to get done. So I found it to be a very inspiring read, and I sure hope that other folks do. And it’s funny just to further that one thing you talk about SpaceX landing rockets. I use this in presentations all the time recently at a customer talking about how today’s stuff that we see as normal was not that case two years ago, even because Blue Origin, they sent people to the edge of space and back, and they landed the rocket.

So they land the first age of the rockets, and it wasn’t even in the news because it’s normal now. So SpaceX has normalized landing the first stage of a rocket, which was unfathomable five years ago.

Now for sure. And if I tell you that there is a way to land rockets without using any fuel, because SpaceX is using fuel to land rockets. But if I tell you that there is today, a means to do it without using any fuel. So a very sustainable way to reuse a rocket. Will you believe me or will you say that it’s impossible? I can tell you that it’s possible because I’m now part of a venture which is a German entrepreneur, fantastic super entrepreneur. And he just demonstrated very recently with a drop test on a small scale that it works.

It’s a kind of an inflatable parachute, if you want that enveloped, let’s say the rocket and it works, but it’s not using any kind of fuel, et cetera. And so it’s a fully sustainable solution to reuse rockets. So you see, it’s going so fast. What I wanted also to say maybe about the risk is that there are some techniques also to minimize the risk, and it’s part of the good preparation. And I explained a little bit in the book and in this course, the crazy method launchpad that will start end of this month.

I will also give much more explanation about these tools, but there are some tools that exist also to try to have a very good preparation to analyze all the possible risk, et cetera. So that again, the risk of failure still exists, but at least you try to minimize it. And I think that again, maybe some entrepreneurs are fearful to do something because they say it’s going to fail, and sometimes it’s a lack of preparation. I think if you are well prepared, if you have well evaluated risk, and if you see what I like, this principle of asymmetry of risk.

Okay. There are some risk, but they are minimal compared to the reward that can be provided by what I want to do, then it should be always the decision. Okay. I’m going to do it because what I’m going to do if I succeed will just be great for the planet. By the way, if I succeed, I can even have a billion dollar company. Why not? And the risk is quite small. Or at least I know what I can do because I have some backup plans, et cetera, to minimize the risk.

If eventually they would happen.

Well, I look forward to seeing the outcomes from the first cohorts in the crazy method launchpad, so Fabrice will stay close for folks who do want to get in touch with you. What’s the best way they can reach you in order to get in contact?

Yeah. So I think the best way is to go on my, I have two websites, but my main website is fabrictesta.com, where you can find all the information. You can reach out to me on this website. I have also another website, which is superpreneurblueprint.com. I’m also available on all social media networks, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube. So just feel free to connect with me if you need some advice for your startup. If you need some mentoring, coaching if you want to follow this new course, if you want anything, I try always to be available for entrepreneurs because I love entrepreneurs and I want also to give back by helping them so that we built a better world.

That’s fantastic. Yeah, I wanted to spend some time talking to mentoring, but I didn’t want to take away from what we wanted to talk about here. Mentoring is incredibly close to home to myself as well, and I’ve definitely seen the advantages that come. And so thank you for giving back to the entrepreneur community. In doing that, it’s more and more. I’ve now spoken to a couple of hundred entrepreneurs through the course of this podcast life, and invariably the successful ones always say my success is because of the lessons that were given to me by others through mentoring and effectively, we can save each other risk.

We can save each other pain. We can share. It’s not all just about pat on the back. You’re doing a great job, kid, and that’s really not what mentoring is about. Mentoring is about having a good, critical voice partner to share ideas with, and I’ve seen it myself as a recipient and also in mentoring I’ve done in the community as well, so it’s great. Hopefully we’ll come back. I’d love to have you back on again in the future, and we can talk a bit more deeply about mentoring.

With pleasure, Eric. It was a great conversation, great questions. And I really enjoy very much this conversation. Thanks a lot for inviting me.

Ladies and gentlemen, Fabrice Testa. Thank you very much.

Bye-bye. Thanks.

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Jennifer Byrne is the CEO of Arrived Workforce Connections. Previously Jennifer was responsible for market expansion initiatives leveraging business model and technology innovation for government, healthcare, and education providers around the globe at Microsoft after joining as the Chief Security Officer for the Worldwide Public Sector Division in 2014.

Prior to Microsoft, Jennifer was a leader in Cybersecurity, having held technical, sales and executive positions at companies such as Intel, McAfee and Symantec. She began her career in technology as an Information Security Analyst and Engineer serving US Government clients.

Her first career, which remains her passion today, was in the non-profit world working with under-served populations.

We discuss how to use tech innovation for optimizing the human experience, the importance of tech access to underserved communities, and how we can all do something small every day to make a difference. 

Thank you and congratulations to Jennifer on her new role as CEO!

Transcript powered by Happy Scribe

Welcome to the show. My name is Eric Wright. I’m gonna be your host for the DiscoPosse podcast. This is a really enjoyable episode featuring Jennifer Bryne.

Jennifer. Between the time we recorded and now when we released, we can proudly say that we can say Congratulations to Jennifer on becoming the CEO of Arrived Workforce Connections. Jennifer has such a storied history in the industry, but more than anything, the reason why she’s been successful both in work and in life is because how she gives back in her approach to thinking about what can we do to give, especially to underserved communities and to the broader community.

This is a great discussion and we cover a lot of ground. We didn’t get a chance to go specifically into her new role as CEO because it was in the works and had not yet been announced when we recorded. So big thanks to Jennifer for giving me the chance to record while she’s in the throes of transition. And Congratulations again. So please do follow the link and reach out to Jennifer and give her a good shout out and a Congratulations. I got to give another shout out.

Speaking of, to the fine folks that make this podcast happen and to really celebrate a fantastic year we’ve all had together. So remember when you have anything in the world of data, in the world of compute, in the world of cloud, you need to protect those assets. How do you do it? Go to the people that have you covered for everything you need for your data protection needs, whether it’s On-Prem, whether it’s in the Cloud, whether it’s Cloud-Native. They’ve got stuff for SAAS, they’ve got your team’s protection SharePoint. You name it.

It’s really important because if you can’t go and say I got Veeam, they got me covered. You’re at risk. No risk equals a great world. If you can reduce risk, it’s easy to think that you’re in a better place. So let’s reduce risk together. Go to vee.am/DiscoPosse. You can check it out. They got a really cool campaign running, but I really and truly enjoy the team and I love the products and I’m very proud of the way they’ve approached things and they got a brand new CEO.

So let’s celebrate this together. So go to vee.am/DiscoPosse. And while you’re protecting, make sure you protect your data in transit as well. If you’re not using a VPN, you definitely need to think about why this is so important. We’re in a dangerous world. Let’s make sure we reduce the risk exposure when you’re surfing the Internet. Whether it’s out in the world or even at home, go to tryexpressvpn.com/DiscoPosse. You can check out ExpressVPN. I’m a user. I’m a customer. I really like it. So go check it out.

Oh, yeah. And buy Diabolical Coffee. All right. Enjoy the show.

Hey, this is Jennifer Byrne. I am the President of Digital Future Consulting and the former CTO of Microsoft US division and about to start a new venture as the CEO. And you are listening to the DiscoPosse podcast.

Jennifer, thank you very much. This is very exciting for me for a variety of reasons and, of course, for my listeners. But selfishly, I think I really do the podcast just so I can meet amazing people like yourself. You’ve got a really strong sort of storied career. You’ve done stuff that I find really inspiring in your approach to the way that you treat people, the way that you empower others, the way that we can use technology. And you talk so much about empowerment through technology. And this is near and dear to my heart because I’m a nerd at heart, and I love technology, and I love the Nerd Bits, and I love getting excited about it.

But I also have to see that what really gets me is what we can do with it. And so we’ll talk a lot about the path to digital transformation and the human empowerment that we can create along the way. But anyway, let me first of all, for folks that are new to you. Jennifer, if you want to give a quick introduction, and then we’ll talk about, first of all, digital future consulting and of course, much more that you’ve got going on.

Yeah. Thank you. Eric. I’m excited to be here, too. This is why I love to be on podcast because this is when you get to talk about all your favorite topics. So the big anchor in my career was the years I spent at Microsoft as the CTO, ultimately of the US division. Although my first CTO role at Microsoft was in the industry team, and I joined Microsoft in 2014 as the chief security officer for the public sector group. Because I’d spent the previous 20 odd years in cybersecurity at Intel McAfee Symantec into startup and way back when I was an InfoSec analyst working for government agencies back in the late 90s.

So that’s my career. I left Microsoft when I had felt like I’d put in my time in big corporate America and felt a calling to do something a little bit different. I had run a couple of innovation projects in my last role as CTO focused on digital skills, and it really started out really simple because we needed more people to know how to use Azure. You cannot drive cloud consumption when there aren’t enough employees in your customers environment than no Azure. But you start to pull the thread on that one, and it’s really not about Azure.

It’s about the skills that you need in order to learn Azure. And then it’s a bigger skills conversation. And all of a sudden, you’re outside of the walls of your customers environment and you’re into communities thinking broadly like, how do we get skills to happen? Because the world is getting more digital and you don’t know that any better than you do when you’re in this industry trying to make that possible. And then it just kind of occurred to me as I’m sitting in communities like Louisville, Kentucky and Houston and Syracuse, New York, that there is this unintended consequence of technology that I think, Eric, you know, and all of us who have been in this industry, we’ve been in the business of talking about how amazing technology is and all the fantastic things they can do in the world, how many problems it can solve.

And it is largely a positive passion that we all believe in. And yet the unintended consequences that it creates a need for skills that a lot of people don’t have. So how do we solve that? And by the way, that skills gap follows socioeconomic, existing socioeconomic rifts in society. And so it is a problem that takes more than technologists to solve. But it felt like a worthy thing to be doing. So when I left Corporate America, I decided I would spend a little time in the future workspace.

So I started a small consulting agency and I work with startups and advise companies. And that’s super fun. It keeps me fresh and also spend a lot of time just doing research and talking and thinking about future work, which has led to a role as a CEO and a company that is playing a small role in that space. So anyway, that’s the nickel tour around me and my career.

Well, there’s so much to, so many threads to pull on. And I think you hit this really strong thing that especially as technologists, where it’s a bit of a bubble. I get concerned about the echo chamber of raw technologists who are all on Twitter, and they’re all at the events. And we all sort of like chatter amongst each other. And that’s fantastic as a way for us to kind of like, build new things. But for people that don’t know what SoMa is in the Bay Area, and there’s so much of this country and of the world that’s beyond the very tech centric Silicon Valley, the New York Bank sectors, like all this amazing stuff in between.

As a technologist, I would go to events, and I would talk about how we’re into other areas, right? I go to Wisconsin. This is one thing that was amazing to me. You go to Wisconsin, there’s these incredible technology companies. And at first I was like, just like the stupid, arrogant guy that lived in the city too many years. I was like, That’s funny. Whenever I reference Wisconsin, I always think of like a dairy farm or something like this, like people with cheese hats.

By the way, that does happen in Wisconsin.

But it was humbling to realize that they have really done leaps and bounds of advancement in how they’re leveraging technology to do a lot of these flyover state things that the rest of the tech ecosystem kind of forgets, goes on. And I was happy when I realized I’m like, this is what matters. These are the stories that need to be told, not how I can get Bank of New York Mellon to go from VMs to containers. That’s neat. But when I can talk about people that never worked in tech suddenly becoming programmers and using no code and using the cloud.

And they were from all sorts of diverse backgrounds. That’s the exciting part to me. And I love that you’ve done research in this area as well, and you’re really working hard to broaden your audience.

Thank you so much. I love what you said about Wisconsin because the specific epiphany I had, and it happened in Louisville, Kentucky, when I was at a ribbon cutting event for a makerspace. It’s like a nonprofit and they renovated it, and they created these conference rooms, and they were really just in the business of helping very small entrepreneurs build the things that they wanted to build. And I had this, as a Microsoft executive, you’re there to stand at a podium and say kind words. We’d sponsored some of this.

I loved the project, but we give them some dollars. That was really, some total of what we did was lend our name, our credibility, give some dollars. I flew out to Louisville, and that was what we were going to do. And it was so clear to me that that was actually just in the broader context of things. Such a small contribution to the grander picture of a really healthy, inclusive digital future because the real work was being done by the people in the facility. The real work happens at the ground floor on the street level.

And I was spending all my time on the 28th floor of a beautiful building in Bellevue, Washington, thinking about programs and thinking broadly and top-down. And I got all the attention. I got all the attention, but I wasn’t really the solution. So when you get down to the street level, if you’re in Wisconsin and people have real problems and they’re vary from a technologist perspective, they’re great problems because they’re discrete problems. They’re bounded. So you can attach technology to a problem at that level and actually generate a difference.

The distance between action and reaction and a small problem is very short. The distance between action and reaction and a really big macroeconomic or global problem or something that would be worthy of a corporate initiative is very long. So if you want to measure impact, then get down into the street and start doing stuff, and that was really when I thought, okay, I can see how this stage of my career could come to a really wonderful and positive end. And I could have the beginning of something else that would be fulfilling for me and also just measurable enough for me to feel like I was making a difference.

This is the interesting dichotomy of, as you said, becoming sort of the face and voice of technology and transformation and all these things. We have to have the evangelists and the advocates and whatever the title is going to be next year when we’re no longer developer advocates are no longer cool. Whatever the new thing is going to be. And it’s this weird thing that I sort of struggle with all the time of being able to get out and meet with people and listen to them. When I do a keynote, it’s to listen to 500 people, to watch their reaction as we’re talking about something and change the way that I tell a story and change the way that I look at what’s next based on that live reaction.

Plus, after the fact we get to talk to people on the ground and you really hear what’s true. It’s very easy to get this Ivory Tower super presenter mode in. But now the advantage you get is pairing that opportunity where you can write books and be a speaker and do all these things and do the ribbon cuttings and then also really be mindful and humble about who’s really doing it. Like you said, this is the true sort of boots on the ground, the unsung heroes, the real transformation is all these other people.

So it’s just weird. I feel bad sometimes, in fact, a lot of friends of mine that are in the public speaking space, they’ve chosen just like to stop. We need to open the stage up for more people. The hard part is when you’re good at public speaking, you get asked to do more of it, and you’re sort of stuck. Like, Why is Robert Downey Jr. In a lot of movies? Because he’s a great actor. So is it his fault? I don’t, not that I’m Robert Downey Jr., for a poor example.

But I mean, I love that you’ve been able to strike this beautiful balance of being close to where it’s really happening. And I find people that have trouble. Sometimes they get a little hung on the idea of looking down from the stage.

It’s tough to find the right altitude. And I will say in defense of good speakers everywhere, that we all have to move forward together. And so it’s the three-legged stool analogy. Two legs just won’t do. So we all have to be doing all of it. And by the way, look, I’m in your podcast. I love to talk about this stuff. So it’s the daily drip of being able to talk about the things that matter, and hopefully in a way that’s helpful to other people is important for me, too.

When I got out of Microsoft and you just do a bunch of stuff and you’re trying to cycle through what I realized I was doing eventually was trying to find the right altitude. I didn’t want to just talk about the problem, but I didn’t want to get so down into the weeds that I was lost in something that felt like a passion project but wasn’t going to create some kind of impact on the world. And so then you sort of get into the problem space you’re in, what does the ecosystem look like?

A tech background really helps because it’s kind of a design thinking or systems approach to things where you’re trying to understand the inner work I was in the future workspace and am and thinking about how do we democratize access to skills, but also how do we change the power structure such that people themselves have the ability to leverage the things that make them better if it’s a skills course or whatever, into a better job, because that’s not how the job market works. It’s very top-down.

So if you’re at the bottom, you just wait for jobs to come to you by way of a job advertisement on Indeed. So if you want to go invest in yourself and get a new skill, it’s a really uncertain business model, right? I mean, that’s not how people think about it, but if you’re a business person you’re like, I don’t understand the ROI of that. That course is going to cost you $12,000 in a year, but you have no actual guaranteed return because you have no way of proactively advertising yourself.

The only platform that exists for that is LinkedIn, which is fabulous, but LinkedIn from a demographic’s perspective is the higher end of the job skills, sort of like in healthcare, treating what they call the worried well, the people who are already healthy and they just want to get healthier. Like LinkedIn is a proactive profile building platform is for people who already generally have a job and they want a better one. But we have this whole section of the workforce that doesn’t. They’re just struggling to get living wage who are very interested in building capabilities and experience that will provide a better path of the future.

But we don’t have a path for them to do so in a proactive way. And so that was when I started to understand in this skills job space what the ecosystem started to look like, where the power was, where the connection is, and then from there, you can figure out, okay, what could we do from a tech perspective to solve that? So that’s all my long, winding way of saying for me, I had to figure out what altitude I could be relevant in this process, and it took a year to get there.

What I respect about how you just described it and your approach to it was just that you have to take a hypothesis. You have to test the hypothesis. You have to live amongst the results and then bring that back to the hypothesis and effectively run it through this machine. And that’s really what makes, it’s very easy for the, I’ll say the pundits, as I call them, right? That it’s easy to sit back and talk about the future of X, but yet never be committed to saying this is how it’s going to go and then writing it down and saying, I’ll pay $1,000 if I’m wrong, like, you’re effectively skinning the game committed to the outcome because you are getting close to who will be affected by it. You’re looking for, especially a population that’s, like, under represented population.

It doesn’t even have to be such a sort of distinct niche. It is 30 plus percent of the United States as an example, and I’m Canadian. My funny accent gives me away sometimes, but I live in New Jersey. There’s so many people who, like, we take for granted. And I say we meaning the Twitterati, right? We’re complaining. Everyone’s talking about the great resignation, and it’s a proud thing. I’m like, yeah, that’s right. Because people are saying, like, oh, it’s disgusting that they’re going to make me go back to an office.

Did you go to Whole Foods today? Yeah. There’s 1000 people, that’s their office. Those people that made sure that you got your well crafted latte and your fancy artisanal steak. They don’t have a work from home option. We have to remember that as a community, it’s not just the community of, like, it’s the community of existence. It’s so easy for us to get just wrapped into, like, oh, yeah, Linkedin is for everybody. I love LinkedIn. I love that it’s a great tool, but it’s very easy for us to just say, like, oh, this box is the Earth.

Right. Yeah.

Totally. You know, I agree. That’s the challenge. It’s a big challenge. It feels like something that could make a difference. And I love when I see my own peers trying to solve the technical aspects of that problem. And many of them are whether that was the intent or not. Microsoft isn’t the only company. There are many that are trying to. IBM, as an example, are trying to democratize access to technology by abstracting the complexity out of it, which is the inspiration behind low code, no code, the abilities or capabilities and whatever platform you’re in.

And digital skills. All the companies are spending a ton of money to try to solve that problem. So I think it is something that we broadly recognize as an issue. The problem is that it is an issue that’s so intractable in its nature because it’s embedded into the kind of the economic structures of our society that you just need a lot of creativity and effort to make a difference. And, you know, I have two kids in their twenties. My daughter is an aspiring artist and works at a restaurant, and it’s tough to watch it.

My son is in his last year as a computer science major, so he’s figured out how to have a career that will pay money. But I’ve got an equally bright, hard working kid who didn’t make that choice, and she’s going to have a tougher road. And I see from her first hand how the world is not built to serve her in her needs given what she wants to do with her life, and that’s okay. Like she made her choices eyes wide open. But there’s stuff that we could fix that would make it better.

And it’s just not about handouts or anything. It’s really just about rethinking the problem in a new way. And if you can make your society healthier, everyone benefits, it is a shared infrastructure that we’re in after all. So that becomes very personal to me on that level. And trying to figure out how to solve it becomes super important.

Yeah. There’s a real challenge in that. The business world, especially the tech startup ecosystem, is very driven on quarter over quarter measurement and growth. But to have the long view, this is why philanthropy and corporate don’t line up in the pure money sense they often can, because it’s a tax deduction. And at least we’ve created a way in which that it can incent people to give back in that way. But what we really need to do is create programs and put people in front of people and show them, that story is there.

I think democratization is a great way to talk about it now. Like you can become a Twitch streamer and you only need to just do the thing that you did, right? It’s the potential is there, that is something like that. You can go on YouTube, you can learn to program through. You can take Harvard Business School courses on YouTube, right. We’ve created opportunity like as far as content and tech access, although Internet access is still not 100% available. Right. But connecting people and giving them a path.

I think this is what’s missing and like mentorship. So I’d love to get your thoughts on this. What have we got today that’s not being used, right? Because we haven’t connected people to show them how to embrace and leverage it.

Yeah. Well, I think it’s a slightly different problem depending on industry. And again, this goes back to your Wisconsin comment that we all think we understand that the edge of the horizon, as we see it, is the actual edge. And it’s not right. We all live in these universes. And so that question for people who are in whatever space where they can move toward Tuck In at Varleys, in the way we would describe it. Computing, right. Coding all those jobs is when there are things that we can do there.

And I think it has a lot to do with a bigger corporate investment and nontraditional learning skills. We could dissect that problem, and I’m very interested in it. There’s a job taxonomy of the future, piece of work that needs to be embraced by the Fortune 500s and 1000s so that HR and people managers recruiters can understand what they’re even hiring for, because once there’s clarity on what the job of the future looks like, there’s clarity on the skills required for the job in the future. And once you have that, you can start to rewrite job descriptions.

You can start to think about the way you recruit. You can start to signal out to potential candidates what they even need to do in order to be eligible for that job in the future. And I think that will sort itself out because you get smart people in that swath that understand the problem and can solve it. But there’s this other technology conversation that it’s easy for computing technologists to forget, which is that in a factory, automation in a factory means that somebody who is actually doing knobs and levers on a control panel is going to move to an iPad, and that iPad is going to require some level of digital context or fluency, that for you and I, might not be the biggest deal, but for people in industries, it will.

There’s a lot of manufacturing and light industrial that works on paper today because they haven’t had a business model to do anything else. Like the solutions factory, light industrial is really interesting if you look at it as an industry, because it’s a very long tail industry where you have a few companies that are big, but most of the revenue or a lot of it is driven through small, independently franchise. If you will branch factories or installations or smaller companies because they are providers to bigger companies, they don’t have a business model for adopting technology.

They don’t have the revenue to do it. And so it exists on paper. But as that automation flows down, you’re starting to require workers to have a level of digital skill that they don’t have. So a manufacturer of a conveyor belt technology that gets put into a factory might require a certification to use that technology. The certification, if you had, it might actually allow you to go find a job that pays $3 more an hour because it’s a little bit more advanced. That scenario exists in almost every industry and that’s technology, and those are digital skills and their digital skills importantly, that once obtained, actually provide a path toward a better living wage.

So for me, that’s the part of the problem that I’m most interested in. It’s ignored. And yet we’re talking about the people who, in aggregate, are the lifeblood of our economy. They are the people who make things and make things work. To your point, the folks in Whole Foods or the people solving real problems in Wisconsin. So I’m interested in that technology and how we help that profile of worker.

Yes. And I probably sound like a dark individual sometimes how much I sort of trash the peer group that I live amongst. But this is just because sometimes it bothers me that they don’t see beyond the rather often myopic view that they have of their frame of existence. And fair enough, it’s not even intentional. It’s just more that when you get people that are very outward about like this is what the world looks like. That’s what your view of the world looks like. It’s not really representative. The whole sort of learn to code as this trope of like, oh, that’s the future of work.


You need to learn to code like, no, it’s not possible for many people. I’m a technologist. I have a whole host of things that I probably would have had to take pills for when I was a kid ADHD and all this different stuff. And I’m also dyslexic, so it’s horrifying for me to write code. I do it, but more out of necessity. And I live with a wealth of anxiety while I’m doing it. And I have skills that most people never got exposed to. You know, I always say I grew up on a farm and I became a technologist, but that’s because my dad was a technologist who took the leap and got out of the farming and made this jump.

Most people don’t have that luxury to leave their ecosystem or their geography. They can’t leave where they live. There are a lot more limiting factors that are forgotten. I think sometimes, which is a little bit frustrating.

Agree. It’s a big problem. Anyway, it’s a lifetime of work. So I’m in an area where I don’t think I’ll ever run out of interesting things to talk about and good stuff to do. So Yay for me. Good job security.

That’s right. What’s a good example of something that you’ve really seen that strikes home, it’s like this is the power of people getting access to technology that you’ve recently seen that’s excited you.

Well, I mean, I haven’t seen it yet in the space I’m in, which is why I’m in the space I’m in, kind of thinking about the other industries where this hasn’t happened. But I’ll tell you, I follow a lot of nontraditional education providers, and I listen to their stories is kind of my daily good news. And so companies like General Assembly and there are many others, have a constant stream of success stories where people have made the leap from whatever they were doing that was not satisfying into jobs that are and, of course, those are tech jobs.

But I think it’s fantastic. So I think it is actually happening all around us. And if there weren’t a ground swell of that, however, the media may or may not be able to report on it. It’s a harder thing maybe to report on. I think it’s behind a lot of this great resignation, which itself, I think, is fantastic news. And it’s happening because people are looking around and they’re seeing their friends and their family or their peers make a leap and all they needed. It’s like all the little penguins are standing at the edge of the glacier, and they just need one of them to jump and everyone else is kind of following.

And I think that’s starting to happen. That’s behind the groundswell and the very fact that there is this great resignation, the very fact that people are, it’s kind of a take back the night moment are starting to say, yeah. No. I mean, sure, I had my unemployment benefits are out, by the way now, and I’m still not going to go back to that crappy job. Sorry. I’m going to figure it out, is exactly what is at the birth of any big social change. So I’m excited.

And, of course, because of my kids, I hear it all the time. I hear my daughter say, if you use the word gig one more time, I’m going to die. We know what that means, and we’re demanding something better. So I think there’s good news, even in the bad news, because it means that people are going to sort of accept, not stand for accepting less. You remember 20 years ago, the issues with the big box retailers, where there were all sorts of lawsuits and generally speaking, I think we all had this collective sigh like, oh, yeah.

It must be terrible to have a part time job in much of America because you don’t get your hours published. Even today. Did you know that they’re, like, 26 million workers who do not know their schedule more than a week in advance? How do you live a life when you can’t figure out what you’re going to be doing next week?

Yeah. When the alternative is you need to find a second part time job, but they’re constantly conflicting or you’re always up in the air. I remember the early days of working two retail jobs, and on Sunday you would find out the schedule for one. And on Monday, you’d find out the schedule for the other. And then I’d have to race to see if I could get shift coverage. And that was just me for part time jobs. But I was in school, so it didn’t hurt me. There are people that have families, but that’s their reality.

And it’s easy to forget sometimes that’s just so much millions. The sheer numbers. This one thing always boggles my mind is that if you just look at the sheer numbers, it’s very easy to lose track that, well, 300. That means that 307,000,000 people don’t have that problem. But there’s 26 million people that do. That’s a giant number. We should all be a little bit horrified. I love the great resignation from the idea. Somebody on not too long ago is Michelle Seiler Tucker, and she’s focused on helping people to build their business for sale, to how to get out of the business and make it viable for purchase.

And she goes through this whole program. And she says, the funny thing is we have these weird stats that we hear all the time that are like, 90% of startups fail and all this different stuff. And she’s like, Well, we’re actually lying when we say those things because according to the Small Business Administration for the past 24 months, in fact, 75% plus or, I forget the exact number of businesses, are thriving. And in fact, businesses that are more than 20 years old have a 90 plus percent failure rate.

So it’s actually the reverse that those of us who are like, I’m done, I’m going to build my own thing. I’m going to do my own thing. We are the next generation of statistics that haven’t been realized yet.

Well, as somebody who just took a CEO role in a company with not that many people in an early stage in market, but just barely, I am excited about that. That’s great. My odds are better than I thought they were.

Yeah. It’s an unfortunate trope that we take this old thing. It’s the same way that, its possession is nine tenths to the law and all these goofy sort of stats that we get tossed around almost like fortune cookie sayings that become wrong quickly, but they’re still printed somewhere. So we still call on them. I love this idea that, I’ve even seen through my own company that people that we hired as business development reps and BDRs or SDRs, their cut in basically dialing for dollars people, right? Like, they get on.

Like, they get on. They’re doing cold calling. And you see someone, you like, oh, he seems different, right? I couldn’t figure out this one seemed like he’s got something going on. And then I see him in LinkedIn, founding a new company. I’m like, oh, that’s neat. Then I see him launching a series A. I’m like, oh, yeah, that’s there. So what you’re creating now, Jennifer, is that small group of people. Those are also future founders that you’re probably empowering because they’ve seen that it can be done now. That’s magical to me.

Yeah, I think so, too. I think it’s exciting. We’ll see what that looks like in the future. If it becomes a competency to build a company. I don’t know how that works from a kind of macroeconomic perspective, but for sure, you do see your point around monetization, you do see so many more people thinking creatively about how to monetize themselves. So sometimes that shows up in our world as the founder of a tech company. But Twitch streaming the long tail of social media advertising. I think that it’s harder than it looks.

But there are a lot of people who are starting small businesses and figuring out how to effectively run them through social media platforms, which I also think is exciting. Upwork, Freelance. There’s a dark side to all those stories, but there’s a positive side to it as well that we’re starting to have a more distributed notion of what work looks like that not everybody has to work in a big company for the rest of their lives in a single career. We can do different things. So I think that’s exciting.

Yeah. And this is actually interesting that you brought that up, the idea that there is a dark side to many of these things as with anything. The hard part is that we’ve got such rapid access to that side of the story much faster than the good side. I remember when I was in Toronto and Uber was making its way into the city, and I was a nerd. I was like, that is really exciting. I can just get a car on my phone. It’s like, super cool. The people at my company, I worked at Raymond James at the time.

So I’ve got all these people that are running an investment firm, and they’re like, what is an Uber? They had no idea what I was talking about. I’m like, watch this. I hit a button and then Yukon XL pulls up on the road and door opens. Hop in, guys, we’re going to the party, and we would have this idea of, the disruption of it. And I was excited by the opportunity for disruption. Unfortunately, there are people that were not going to do financially well through it, and they would be facing challenges when it came to City Council trying to regulate it.

What ended up happening was you’d have, of course, very strong voices on either side. And you would hear people who would say, like, I’m a mother of three kids that are under six. I can get my mother in law to help me watch the kids from 09:00 p.m. Until two in the morning every night, and my husband takes care of them in the morning. So result, I get to work 5 hours a day and I make money and I feel safe.

You hear stories like this, it’s like she can’t work for a taxi. She can’t work at a regular job because it requires four till ten shifts. All of a sudden, we’ve got this incredible story again, counter. There are difficult sides of it as well. But like that opportunity, like Upwork and those opportunities now are there. I’m excited by it. But I also know that a lot of people don’t often see there’s risk and balance to kind of any new thing that we take on in this style.

Well, I think another way of saying that is that if you’re in the business of creating disruption, which is what Uber was in the business of doing and Airbnb and has become the North Star or the greatest aspiration for anybody who’s trying to be a founder of a tech company that matters, then the measure of your success may be that you cause so much disruption. You actually create unrest at social policy levels. Because I’ll tell you, I was at Microsoft when all that was happening, and I was traveling around the world talking to a lot of government leaders and ministries of finance in smaller countries.

And they wanted to know, like, the big question was Microsoft, what is your view on the uberization of work and technology. And what is the role of a tech company in that space? Because after all you’re creating a lot of this, and it’s actually causing a lot of unrest, especially in countries that have a little bit bigger of a social safety net and therefore more investment and a sense of responsibility for dramatic shifts in the way industry works. So it was a big thing to your point. I kept thinking, Well, this is a hard conversation, but if we just take the longer view, it’s probably going to end up in a good place because we are trying to solve the next generation or the next version of our problem.

But we’re making progress. There are as many success stories here as elsewhere. And let’s not forget that if you at all believe in free markets or in the wisdom of markets, there’s a reason why Uber was successful because they addressed an unmet need.


And it wasn’t even a technology, if you think about the components of the technology behind Uber, that’s not where the innovation was. The innovation was in the idea. And so personally, that’s my inspiration. If I want to go do something, of course, I want to be disruptive and make a big change. I’m not thinking I need to do it in technology. There are other technologists who will go be CEOs of companies that are in Cleantech or doing something crazy cool with AI. And that’s not me.

I think from an innovation perspective, you can just innovate by thinking of a fresh solution to an old problem and bring all the existing tech that already exists to play. And if you’re lucky, people get really uncomfortable. But you’re also making life better.

Yeah, because you hear it all the time. Like, these two sided markets are incredible. Their right for disruption. Next door really became a thing. It quietly was worth all of this money because it had such a vast growth. I had never heard of Nextdoor in my life. My mother-in-law. She’s like, I’ll go on Nextdoor and find something. We’re looking for a contractor. I’m like, what the heck is Nextdoor? Then I dig into it. I’m like, Good golly. This thing is worth billions, but it was just that, right?

A two sided marketplace. You had people that need to be serviced on either side. This is fantastic. Everything needs to be like, all it takes is a little bit of an idea, and you can close the gap. And what it satisfied for me was, I solved the problem. I needed to get a hose fixed and somebody else solved a problem. He’s trying to build his cottage and pay for his family. And so he found a little tiny gig that he could fit in in an afternoon.

And I didn’t need to write an ad in the paper for it. We’ve come a long way, and it’s magical that we can create this opportunity. I think I’m with you on Disruption. Sounds like a dark word sometimes, but it really means that in the same way that forests naturally will burn from that, you can only get new growth because if the forest continues to grow, it creates shade, which stops growth below the shade line. But it is hard to have that macro view when you’re micro affected.

And I think that’s what we become very overly attuned to is that this is affecting me now or someone I know now. And therefore I must have some kind of a feeling about this that’s bad.

Yeah. Really. Well said. We’re in exciting times, may you live in interesting times as the proverb sort of tongue-in-cheek says, right.

Yeah. And the thing that I really want more people to look at is how they can directly do things. And this is what I’d love to get your thought on. Jennifer, where can we, if we, as a people have, say, technology skills or something to share, where can we have a direct effect? Do you see the opportunity for us to empower people, to empower other people? I think this is the missing two sided market.

I mean, I have narrowed the list down to a few things. I think there are an endless number of things. It’s more of a mindset of do I take responsibility? What is my role in this problem? From there? There’s a lot of things that we can do. If you’re a hiring man, I’ll just throw it to you. If you are a hiring manager and I am a hiring manager now. And I’m finding myself saying, don’t be a hypocrite. Do what you think is the right thing to do.

Are you allowing yourself permission to look at novel skill sets when you’re looking for people? Because if we’re talking about a more I mean, ultimately, what we’re talking about is that we are going to live in a more digital world. And if we’re going to allow people an opportunity to survive and thrive in that world, but they don’t have a four year computer science degree, how are we going to address that? So looking at novel skill sets, allowing online certifications to be enough, looking at potential and broad capabilities rather than five years of Python and your previous job and a four year degree at this University, I think it’s hiring managers, the unsung hero of Middle America or middle management corporate America.

We really have a huge amount of influence on what the future of work looks like, even though you may not get any credit for it. So I think thinking about that, you have a very direct role to play in shaping the next generation of workers through your actions, and it will require risk, and it will require creativity, and it will require harder work. Diverse teams are harder to get to productivity as we know. So that’s something. I was always inspired. Microsoft was a fantastic company for many reasons, but also from a culture perspective, there was a culture of giving and giving back to communities.

I don’t know if it’s better or worse than any another company, but it was wonderful there. And I was so inspired that I had many hundreds of technical people on my team throughout my tenure there, and most of them if you ask them what they did in their free time, they were spending their Saturdays teaching robotics camps or coding skills and doing hackathons with kids and in their communities. And I think that is fantastic, especially when you get to underserved communities and communities of color or women or girls and STEM.

I think boys are just as important as girls, but wherever you find people who might need a little extra help getting yourself involved and I don’t think enough people are doing that. I would say also, I don’t see a lot of technologists in this policy conversation. We’re talking about getting really steeped into future of work, that would be something I’d rather see. And I guess my last point of advocacy would be for us to stop, to be very careful not to assume that technology is computing technology.

There are all sorts of solutions out there that are technology outside of our industry, and they are creating jobs. And if we can make sure that the people working on an offshore oil rig are adequately trained in the underlying technology concepts and the applications and use of their industry, that is a path forward in factories and event hospitality, health care, finance. There’s all sorts of non computing specific technology that the world needs to know how to use. And if we can give people those skills, we create a lift for everyone, so it doesn’t just have to be coding.

I think skills is such a great description of what we can empower like technology can be software, mechanical. It can be lots of different ways that we can create new ways to interact with systems. But systems isn’t always technology. There are people systems. There are very human systems that are out there that can be optimized, and I exploited to such. It sounds like a negative word, but exploited in, like, properly leveraged. So people in hospitality, even the simplest things. I used to be a shoe repair man, so I was a cobbler with a rare treat that you don’t get too many people that could say they’ve done that.

And I worked in a mall at the entrance to a subway and we had all this throughput. But the first thing I thought about was treat this like a system. How can I make sure that I can optimize the flow of people when it was rush hour, optimize the flow of shoes going through the system, right? Knowing how and teaching people who are not technologists, who I work with, how to think like a system. I taught them systems thinking. And I was at high school education.

I had no other than just my strange nerdish need to find optimization and everything. I got this, and I looked at the wall of stuff that we sold, and I started organizing. I’m like, what would entice somebody to come to the front of the store. And so I made the display differently. And I sort of built this journey through the little tiny store. And the funny thing was, six months later, we won a marketing award for a shoe repair by Cadillac Fairview, which is this big mall.

And they’re also pension fund as well. So the people that I worked with, what it taught them was that we’re amazing. We all have something we can do, something that we can reach for. And then the two guys that I worked with, went to get their own stores. And then one guy went independent, and he started his own shoe repair. That was entrepreneurship and even entrepreneurship with a paycheck just thinking about systems thinking and thinking about optimization and thinking of ways we can do that.

We created a better human experience for our customers and for each other, and no Comp-Sci degree required. It was pretty cool to see that we could pull that off.

I just literally love what you just said. That whole systems thinking approach, the idea of being able to discern a pattern out of chaos. If there was one higher level cognitive skill that I think in our education systems, we should be teaching, it’s that. And I’ve heard enough of these conversations that we’re all educators who agree, but I think they’re still in the minority. There’s this, I don’t know, this is going to be super geeky, so maybe not helpful. There’s this architect, a famous architect who I think was, I’m sure, a teacher at a University.

His name is Christopher Alexander, and he wrote this seminal book in architecture called The Timeless Way of Building. And I had a lead architect on my team at Microsoft who said, “You’ve got to read this book”, because what we don’t ever remember is that the underpinnings of anything we do when we’re designing a technology system are the very same underpinnings that architects use when they’re designing space or mechanical engineers are using when they’re designing roads and bridges. And they are all in their most fundamental elements, designed to reflect a human experience.

And it was a very big turning point for me to get clear on the fact that number one, technology is ultimately only ever an expression of our human experience, of the world around us. We just reflect ourselves in the things that we build, whether it’s a bridge or an application. But if you can start to cognitively, kind of grasp how to discern patterns, how to understand connections and relationships, then you’re much more equipped to understand the world, understand the problem you want to solve, understand where you fit in the world.

And I don’t think we do that enough. But that book, if you ever want to read a 400 page book on architecture. But he talked about how cities are built and how a house is built. A quick example. You intuitively know when the front door is in the right place of a house, we intuitively know this. We don’t need any training. And when it’s right, it’s when there is enough of a pathway to a front door. When it’s wrong, it’s where the front door is right on the street.

And the reason for that is that a house represents an intimate, personal space. And so the front door placement is a way of allowing us to slowly get closer to our space and allowing enough distance for people who are going to come into our space to do so in a slower and thoughtful space. You don’t want someone abruptly in your face in a first conversation, nor do you want them abruptly in your front door. And so it’s just a way of saying, oh, interesting. That’s why certain design elements in architecture makes sense to us.

It’s not because we know anything about architecture. It’s because we know everything about ourselves and technology is that way, too. But you can apply that thinking to anything. And I think then the world starts to get more understandable, like people get lost in the world of technology. We just feel like it’s passed us by or we don’t get it. And I’m here to say that you actually do get it, on some level. You actually totally understand it because it’s built on the same patterns that are echoed throughout your life.

And they’re human.

Yeah. This is the magical thing of seeing it. And actually, I always laugh at my favorite example is everyone smiles on it and will say, like bees when they create honeycombs, they’re perfectly hexagonal. Like, that’s amazing. It’s like bees know math. I’m like, I think you’ve got it backwards. These are patterns in nature that we’ve discovered, and we’ve built math to represent these things. And then we teach math as if that was the skill. But it’s actually the capturing of the pattern, not necessarily the learning of the task of measurement.

That was the zero to one thing that happened one day, the reason why the apple striking the head as being the sign of the start of gravity, whether real or not. As if the Apple knew what gravity was and just had to tell Isaac Newton, by the way, here you go, here’s an idea. It was a variety of things that suddenly was like, aha, but it was the recognition over years of looking for a pattern and then seeing it. And it can be very small things.

That’s why, even like, said servers in restaurants. A great friend of mine, he’s been working as a server, and he goes now like he has a SWAT team of servers. And they go into new restaurants like Gordon Ramsay’s little TV show where they like, ‘You’re doing it all wrong. And here’s how you do it’. And they teach people how to optimize the flow for customer experience, including the chefs and all these interactions. And he says, what do I teach people? He says, “I hand them this as the most bizarre book that you wouldn’t think you’d hand to a restauranteur.

But I give them The Goal by Eli Goldratt, which, if we are in technology, is the foundation of the Phoenix Project, which is the entire DevOps movement, is based out of this idea of how do we optimize flow. And Goldratt wrote this book, in I don’t even know, it was like the 60s or 70s. Talking about the manufacturing industry and lean manufacturing led to lean startups and lean development. And just like, we think that the bees know math, no. Here we are. So here’s somebody teaching a serving crew at a restaurant.

And then when it comes to taking on technology, those group of people, they start to look at this system now and go, you know, it’d be better is if this menu was done this way and they are now driving the experience for the developers and for the restauranteur and saying, like, ‘It’d be better if we put the system here’. And they are invested in their own outcome. But then, as a peer group, it raises us all to be able to just ask a question, don’t just come in and do it.

That’s the beauty. It’s like when your kids say, why, for the first time, you’re like, oh, that’s cute. And then it becomes very uncute because they ask why about everything.

So true.

But then you realize it’s beautiful because they are genuinely questioning it. And you’re like, I’m so happy you’re doing that.

It’s so good. I mean, we could just get super nerdy here, but it is a reminder that through our evolution, we are born optimized to understand the world at a very intuitive level, how that happens. Neurologists can have the nature nurture conversation that happens all the time in the AI spaces, you know, like, does the system have to start from scratch, or can it be built in with a few things to give it a head start? Because people are. Babies are born with the way we function neurologically is optimized to be a reflection of the world already around us.

And that’s why things make sense to people all the time. But it’s important because it is a mindset shift of, I start from a place if I can. The world is not foreign to me. Any manifestation of the world, technological or otherwise is not on some level foreign to me. It is simply an expression of the laws that I was born that were internalized in me the moment I was born, that we are optimized for the world.

And it’s just a matter of patience and understanding and study and observation that I can become more efficient and efficacious in that world that I start from a place that I can.

I’m curious, who are the people that you look to as more recent inspiration? Like we can always look to the philosophers of old and sort of our early teachers. But who do you see that you find is reflecting a new existence and doing it well, nowadays?

I think I look at people who are talking about this. So there’s a gentleman, Erik Brynjolfsson, who’s now at Stanford, and now I’m going to forget the name Stanford Digital, something other. He was at MIT, and he is an economist and technologist who talks about future work. And so much of what I understand is from his work. So I think everyone should follow him. But then there are the innovators, like the Elon Musk’s of the world. I know he’s overused, but the reality is there’s this charm of not getting so excited about the fact that he’s solving a big problem that I think is exactly that mindset of you have to get yourself into a space where you feel like if you just thought about things, use that kind of root cause analysis and ask a bunch of questions about why things work the way they are and uncover your assumptions about things that you actually can get to a very rich understanding of the world around you.

And from there understand how you can affect it. So I don’t follow a lot of people on a daily, weekly basis. But those are two. For the world itself, Ian Bremmer, I’m a huge Ian Bremmer fan. Nobody knows who is. He runs a group called the Eurasia Group. He talks about world and world politics, and I think he applies that kind of thinking to the realm of politics and policy and global affairs. And so I think maybe it’s more about people who I think use that mindset and apply it to whatever it is that they do that I’m inspired by.

I pulled over a book just because I literally wrote this down because I was listening to Antifragile. It’s Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Famous for Black Swan and a lot of things. And the one quote that jumped out of me says, to be a successful philosopher King, it’s better to start as a King and then become a philosopher. I find that it’s the practitioners that are truly creating the next philosophical discussions because before it was always from academia, then teaching the world how it’s supposed to work.

But I find this is an opportunity, we can turn it on its head. And much like you talked about Elon Musk. Right. First principles thinking even in the smallest format and things we do of like, why is it that we do this thing this particular way when you see people that are doing stuff in practice and they’re saying, I don’t want to go to an office, they’re saying I can become a gig worker. I can become my own landscaper. I can start my own shoe repair.

I can start a startup using no code and low code just because I’ve got a problem to solve. But it’s very much often people with lived experience that then just can take this and almost question the philosophers of old and say, I think we can do something here. I think where we’re going to see ten years from now, a lot of stuff going on that’s already happening, but it won’t be realized in public effectively until the next wave of startups kind of make it to whatever status is where we look for unicorns, or just the fact that longevity. We will see more longevity in small businesses, and people will see those new statistics.

And that’s the future of all of us. Actually, this is a fun part when you’re looking at the future of things, and we’ve clearly gone through very literally a Black Swan event with what’s gone through with the pandemic and what’s still continuing with the pandemic, of course. But are the things that you looked at five years ago that either are holding true or maybe even were accelerated because of the most recent 18 months that we’ve gone through.

I have to just take a second to go back to five years ago. So I’m literally like, wait, what year was it five years ago, 2017. Where was I then? I think that my understanding of how problems need to get solved on a small level kind of back at the very beginning of this conversation. That the boundaries of a problem matter that actually has a relationship to this whole democratization distribution of technology knowledge, because when you let everyone solve their own small problem, I think there’s a bigger aggregate effect than when you assume that only a few organizations or there’s a real centralization of problem solving capability and all the money and power and intention flows to that.

And I was seeing that in the context of a lot of the digital transformation projects that we were running, and if you go work for the big Fortune 50 at some level, you’ve got to get C-level people to sign up for projects that are extremely so expensive that the board has to approve. And they have very dubious ROI because it’s an innovation project. How do you know it? It’s an experiment. So it’s not that you don’t see it at that level, but they only work when they were inspired by people who are actually out in the field, whatever the field is in, whatever industry trying to get very specific about a problem.

And that was when I realized, oh, my gosh. The democratization of skills is important because you need to empower everyone to solve their small problem, and that’s going to create a shift in power. Right knowledge and efficacy being power if you let people solve problems and you give them technology, then they’ll do it. And of course, remember, I have a son who can Twitch and all that sort of stuff has been in my house for a while. So I’ve kind of seen that, too. So I’d say that would be the pattern that has stayed true, and I think it’s going to continue to shift.

I didn’t know it was going to look quite like this, though.

Having kids. I’ve got four kids and I’ve got 20, 18 and 5 and 2. So I’ve got quite a range of things that I’ve seen, and I sort of laugh now, people that have young kids, especially that we all know about sort of the YouTubers and these Blippi and Ryan’s Toy review. And there’s all these very popular things. And there’s one kid, who you look at his videos five years ago, and it was just basically filmed on an iPhone, not even a good iPhone, but an iPhone seven or six, whatever it was at the time.

And this year, he was in Fortune reporting 26 and a half million dollars in revenue.


He’s eleven years old. There is very unicorn-like capabilities in exploiting these. Finding the pattern, exploiting the system that allows you access to uncover and use that pattern. And that’s kind of cool. The economy is so different now, but I think I’m like you. I like the democratization, and I think the last 18 months, though, not anybody in the world wouldn’t trade away. What we’ve had to go through as a society. What we have to do is find the best of what we did. And I think the great resignation startups moving to everybody’s mindset, people realizing you can just do things on the Internet and you can begin to generate revenue.

It’s a new economy, it’s a new world. The one thing we didn’t get a chance to talk to, but it’s still early on. So I’m going to have you back because I want to get your first few months of experience. So I have to say Congratulations in advance that as this is out and people are listening. You are the CEO of a new company and you’ve been involved, so, in the last couple of minutes here and I apologize. I don’t want to box you in, but just as a bit of a teaser to what’s coming up next for you, Jennifer.

Well, we’re going to go through a big rebranding renaming event, so I’m hesitant to talk about too many of the details here, but it’s a company that’s in this future workspace from an industry taxonomy perspective. You put us in the HR tech space, but I’m concerned about workers that are not in the tech industry. I’m concerned about workers who are not on LinkedIn, and I’m interested in how we can within the existing ecosystem of how people find work, which is through staffing, agencies and employers. How can we give people access to a proactive profile building capability that allows them to find work to go out and find work?

They advertise to agencies and employers based on the profile they build for themselves. So I got the advanced certification. I was making $18 an hour. My profile has changed. I have really great five star ratings from my last two employers. I’ve got a few verified skills, and now I think I could earn at least $23 an hour. How do you do that? What’s the platform in the marketplace that you build to do that? So the company is already kind of in that space and a little bit narrower because product market fit is important.

But that’s the aspiration of the company. And ultimately, I think it’s providing that LinkedIn active profile building capability to the rest of America, and then hopefully the rest of the world.

That’s amazing. And Congratulations on the big move. And I’m excited about the future there, inevitably, with you as part of the leadership team and then heading it up. They’ve got success ahead for them. And so it’ll be exciting to watch. So it’d be great to be able to see post rebrand. I know that’s always an interesting challenge for any organization, so it’s always fun that we get to be secretively leading up to it. But this will be, actually the said timing, as it were, this will probably be pretty close to when you go live.

So I’m excited about that. Jennifer, if anybody wants to reach you, of course, well, I have links to your website. And where can folks find you if they want to get connected?

Well, I think by the time this publishes, I’ll have a whole bunch of new contact information, but I am a big fan of LinkedIn. I use it and I’m on it all the time, and people reach out to me all the time there, and I always reply, so that would be probably the single best way to find me.

Excellent. You’re better human than I am. I’m the worst, because the thing I get the most at these days is people trying to sell me explainer videos on LinkedIn is particularly good for prospecting. And for whatever reason, once you have a very public voice, people see you as a great prospecting target for a lot of things.

Thank you. But I’m so grateful for that platform, so I really take it seriously. I do try to kind of be somewhat active. I post all my podcasts there. Not that everyone wants to listen to me. And I just try to be useful on the platform. And I try to be grateful for the people who reach out there because you never know any. Of course, there’s lots of sales pitches, but that’s okay.

And like you said, I’m really mindful of the effect that it can have. And really, the last job that I took, it was kind of funny. After I was at the company about three months, the human resources team, they phoned me up and they said, hey, Eric, we realized that we don’t have a resume of you. We’re supposed to have one on file. So can you do us a favor? Can you write up and send me a resume? Because that is the future of work for a lot of people that there is no more filing the CV and sending with a cover letter.

It was, somebody sort of found me on LinkedIn and they followed my blog and we met an event and I interviewed with a bunch of people. And the offer comes it was a very different world. But yet the old classic practices like, we’re supposed to have a resume on file somewhere just to say that we looked at it, which is crazy.

I know it’s kind of crazy. And when you get into the lower end of the wage scale, resumes are just not even necessary because you get people early in career. So I will say one of the features that we have is this video capability. So kind of like TikTok where I can film myself answering questions and in three minutes, a recruiter or a hiring manager can get a very good sense of. Can I show up? Can I talk? What have I done? What’s the look and feel?

What’s my authenticity? Am I real? I’m not even my actual person. So I think that’s the future, especially for a lot of those jobs where you just need to make sure, I’m going to be serving people. You need to make sure I can serve people.

Yeah, that’s right. I am very excited to dig in on this one. So there you go. Once the new name is unveiled, we can have you back on. We can do a deep dive into what you and the team are doing.

I would love that. Thank you. Such a fun conversation.

Great. Thank you very much.

Alright. Thanks, Eric.

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Scott N. Schober is the President and CEO of Berkeley Varitronics Systems (BVS), a forty-year-old New Jersey-based privately held company and leading provider of advanced, world-class wireless test and security solutions.

Schober also invented BVS’s cell phone detection tools, used to enforce a “no cell phone policy” in prisons and secure government facilities. Scott is a highly sought-after subject expert on the topic of cybersecurity.

Scott shares his story of his own recovery from identity theft, techniques we can all use to protect ourselves, and the challenges that are faced by everyday people in a growing increase of cyberwarfare and cybersecurity attacks.

Check out Scott’s book: Hacked Again

Visit Scott’s website at https://scottschober.com 

Thank you for the great lessons in this episode, Scott!

Transcript powered by Happy Scribe

Hello, and good morning, good evening, good afternoon wherever you are.

This is Eric Wright, the host of the DiscoPosse Podcast. You’re in for a really great episode. We talk about cybersecurity, online security, personal security, ransomware, and much more with Scott Schober. Scott is an author. He’s also the founder of Berkeley Varitronics Systems. He’s a well adored voice in the InfoSec and cybersecurity world. He’s been featured all over the place. So it was a real honor to share time with Scott, and it’s a lot of great lessons in here. You hear about his own journey through challenges in having his identity stolen and how he recovered from that.

And he shares a lot of the practices that will allow you to do that really compelling story. Plus, he’s just a very good speaker, definitely somebody who I would love to see on a stage somewhere in his presentation mode. And of course, speaking of ransomware, how do you stop ransomware?

Easy. You use our friends over at Veeam Software in order to make sure that you’re protected for everything across data protection, including ransomware protection, because ransomware is about making sure you protect your assets, whether they’re in the Cloud, whether they’re Cloud-Native, whether they’re On Premises, you are vulnerable. Unless, of course, you use the good practices and the great software at the fine folks at Veeam. So go to vee.am/DiscoPosse, and you can get hooked up with that. And if you want to stop ransomware as well, make sure you try and ease up the in-flight traffic that you do and that’s protecting yourself using things like VPNs.

I’m a user of ExpressVPN. I highly recommend it because it allows me to ensure that wherever I go, my traffic is protected in flight. It’s part of an overall practice, so easy to try. Head on over to tryexpressvpn.com/DiscoPosse and that’s the easiest way to get set up and you get a little bit of a bonus. You get a free month, you get some neat things. Do that head on over to tryexpressvpn.com/DiscoPosse.

And of course, one last thing. If you want to be able to stay up late to be able to fight your ransomware and think about better security practices, then do it by drinking fantastic, devilishly good coffee, like diabolical coffee. So head to diabolicalcoffee.com and you can get set up there.

All right. Anyways, let’s go back to the show. This is Scott Schober. He’s really cool. I enjoyed this. And this is the DiscoPosse Podcast.

Hi, I’m Scott Schober, President and CEO of Berkeley Varitronics, cybersecurity expert and also author. And looking forward to a great conversation with the DiscoPosse Podcast.

Scott, thank you very much for joining today. This is especially enjoyable as I’ve spent a lot more time now in the security and cybersecurity community. Been diving back in, and naturally your name pops up and your content tends to pop up just because you’ve got, number one, you’re a very prolific voice in the community and in the industry, and it’s just super high quality. So you are CEO of an organization. You’ve actually got your own company. You’re an author. So we’ll talk about Berkeley Varitronics. We’ll talk about your book, and this is one that I definitely will recommend.

We’ll make sure we have links as well for folks that want to hear about Hacked Again. And more than anything, you’re just such a great, respectful voice in the community. So thanks for joining. If you don’t mind for folks that are new to you, give a quick little intro and a bio, and then we’ll jump into the challenges that we all face right now.

Yeah, absolutely. I have the honor of running a small company. We’re a wireless security firm. We’re in business 49 years. I’m actually next generation. It was founded by my father. And over the years, we’ve kind of changed what we do as a company. But we’ve always had the unique challenge where people come to us with complex problems and we try to provide a simple solution. Oftentimes it’s tied in with wireless. And that really blossomed for us. In about the mid 1980s, we developed the first wireless test tools, and these were receivers, transmitters and propagation software so you could actually plot out and look what the cellular coverage was and have an idea where in the world to put cell towers.

A lot of the offshoots of that in the 90s and the 2000s were understanding how cell phones work and providing more advanced tools and the offshoots of all that were a lot of security problems and solutions. And a lot of the solutions we came up with was because we understand how bad guys think and the vulnerabilities that are inherent in mobile phones. And hence we launched a bunch of different security tools and products and provide services and expertise and knowledge base. And in the process of doing all of this, the education of it, especially in the past ten years, I found out I had a target on my back, and these were the cyber criminals going after me to basically silence me.

That’s really kind of the Genesis of my story, Hacked Again. That was my first book was what happened when I got victimized and targeted by these cyber criminals. And a lot of it is really the mistakes that I made. And it’s kind of embarrassing because here you are as a CEO, running a cybersecurity security company to help with physical security and cybersecurity. And here we are, we’re a victim. We’re getting repeated DDoS attacks, Twitter hack, debit card, credit card. We had $65,000 stolen out of our checking account, became a federal investigation.

So I kind of detail all of my misfortunes and all the things that I’ve learned from the community, and I try to share and give that back so others don’t go down the same path that I’ve gone down and hopefully can learn from some of my mistakes. And in the process of that, it obviously gets a lot of attention in the world of cybersecurity, on the speaking circuit from books. So I launched two other books. As a result of that, I focus a lot in the world of media, TV and radio, and blogging to share and provide tips that people can use to stay safe, whether it be just from a consumer side, a small business Fortune 500 company, but really trying to harness my knowledge base to fight back against cyber criminals.

And that’s kind of become my mission.

Well, if anything, in fact, I’d find that those who’ve been on the other side of it effectively a victim of this situation are the ones that I would most likely have a greater trust in because you’ve actually genuinely experienced it. You’ve understood the recovery process, you’ve really seen the exploit in action. The challenge we often find is you end up with a lot of pundits and experts, right? And I use it as someone who gets asked all the time to do things as an influencer or as whatever.

And I’m like, I can speak about a lot of things, but I can’t speak with truth and conviction about everything. I can read about a thing and then speak about it versus you have lived experience. You have skin in the game in actually going through this. And so I find that just the credibility is so much stronger also that you’re willing to share in the challenges you faced, because that’s also another problem everybody kind of wants to say, oh, I would never. Countless financial advisors who are bordering on bankruptcy, countless bankers who haven’t paid their taxes in nine years.

There are all these people who do a job and yet have sort of fundamental issues in their own handling of the very same thing that they are supposed to be experts in. It’s an odd world in that way that sometimes the voices are the loudest, but not necessarily the most ideal that you would have.

Yeah, I think you make a great point. And I always joke around with my wife, and there’s kind of an old adage, you always say that the electrician house always has electrical problems and things like that, and there is some truth to it, and it can be embarrassing. And I’m the first guilty of it, especially when I look back and was targeted and hacked. But as I talked to other cybersecurity practitioners and some of these guys, I learn a ton of things about. But yet I see they themselves are lacks in cybersecurity often, and they’ll send me a password by email and say, Well, I trust you. It’s okay.

And I’m like, no, stop, please don’t text or email that or they’re not using multifactor authentication or whatever it is. So we, as a community in cybersecurity sometimes are not setting the best example for others. And I’m hoping that we can over time, break that trend. And most of the things that I tend to talk about are not items that are big spends are super complex and technical. And I think that’s kind of a misunderstanding industry people hear cybersecurity. And at least years ago, when I first started talking about it, people would look at your deer in the headlights.

What in the world is this guy talking about? Acronyms and this word and that word. Now it’s become a little bit more mainstay. And people understand if they hear ransomware, they hear fishing attack, they hear multifactor authentication. It resonates with them. They get it. Maybe they don’t practice it or utilize best practices, but they get the sense of those terms because every day you turn the news on, we hear about these things. Cyber attack, ransomware attack. It happened with phishing, it happened these credentials were lost.

So it’s become kind of the norm. And hence the reason why I wrote my second book, cybersecurity Is Everybody’s Business. I kind of had to pivot from understanding from a technical standpoint. Here’s what it is with a CEO wireless security company compromised. But now when I talk about cybersecurity, it does affect my grandmother. It affects my kids, my family, my business colleagues. It affects everybody, and we have to do something about it, or we will be victimized. And hopefully that resonates through some of the pages there and the stories and things that I share because I think it is important for each person to take control of their own security, just like you want to secure your home, secure your car.

You want to have some type of strong cybersecurity stance just so you can fight back and not be victimized because the cyber criminals are winning. That’s the part that bothers me so much, despite the effort of what I’m trying to do and a lot of other great people out there men and women, countless hours trying to fight back and defend people and define good security practices and make things simple. In a sense, I feel like we’re losing. And it’s not just on the personal level, but even as a global level.

Look at what’s happening in the United States with countless ransomware attacks, especially that seems to be an area that now the government is stepping up, which is good. You’ve got the Biden administration now talking to tech companies, and these are the guys that really are embedding security into their products, especially the IoT type of products and mobile phones and things like that. Hopefully this will start to make a difference and resonate through the community or through the United States and get us all safer. And that’s important.

The interesting thing is sort of the adage of we have to be right all the time, and the intruder only has to be right once. We are basically holding up a shield and hoping it doesn’t fail. And at best, it’s a shield that we borrowed. We cannot be experts. They, this proverbial sort of The Royal They. This is all they want to succeed at is just trying and trying and trying until a small way of breaching that armor, it’s a small data breach. And we have this real unfortunate problem that I agree with you.

I love that the government is moving towards at least raising it because it has an incredible impact that they’re there. The downside is often the first step will be to somehow legislate it away. And that is very much not the way. And in fact, sometimes can hobble real true technology organizations and companies and groups that, like many of us are doing, is trying to fight, trying to create ways in which to hold off these breaches, hold off these attacks. And we get sometimes hamstrung by the very same legislation that is designed to protect the rest of the greater good that it’s like, oh, now you’re on the wrong side of some code by law violation or something or another, right?

Yeah. There is truth to that. And I think to some degree that adage, it is pointed and it makes sense. And then I often also think about the counter. And if we look at cybersecurity and I have to say nothing is 100% secure. I think that, I always put that out on the table. So when people are unrealistic, it kind of balances it out. However, when you look at the government and some of their failures or misgivings of the past endless breaches that have happened from pretty much every agency throughout the government, it doesn’t mean going forward.

It will be constant failure, because if they start implementing these best practices and you’ve got private and public working together, communicating, sharing vulnerabilities, sharing weaknesses, then you can start actually blocking them, stopping them and working together. So there’s kind of that silver lining I look at when that communication is there the sharing of information. It doesn’t matter that we don’t have to get it right every single time. But when we do is start implementing best practices and don’t just throw our hands up because I hear that all the time.

When I present at these security trade shows often, a lot of times I’ll interact with the audience and I’ll hear a little bit sense of why bother. I don’t have anything that’s that valuable to steal. They’re going to get it anyway. The government can’t secure it. No company can keep my information secure.

So why bother?

And that’s not a good way to approach cybersecurity, but rather, if each person takes some personal responsibility, do what they can. And it starts at the simplest level. Sometimes it doesn’t mean you have to go out and spend a ton of money, but creating a strong password. This is something I’ve talked past ten years until my eyes are blue. And yet people look at you and say, yeah, very important yet then you question them or quiz them. Well, how many characters is your password? Six characters.

Well, why is it six? I can’t remember more than six or eight characters. And is it a common name? Well, yeah.

Do you use it across multiple logins? Well, yeah, because that way it’s easier to remember. So right away, they start to break down their security. And these are things that we control. So if you don’t reuse the same password across multiple websites, that just takes you to another level, because guess what? More than 50% of all people still reuse the same password across multiple websites. But when we start looking at odds and these security breaches, we wonder, why does it keep happening? Because of us. People are the problem.

Human weakness, and we’re complacent. We’re laxed in cybersecurity. I always ask people and challenge them and say, do you use multifactor authentication? And most people say, oh, yeah. Do you use Gmail? Well, yeah. Do you use multifactor authentication there? Well, no, I have nothing private there to share. And I’m like, well, yes, you do, because before you know it, you’re sending a password, a Social Security number, bank account information. At some point you will. Do you think that that email is truly encrypted private, and Google never reads any of the content of it?

Well, they do. Because you’re paying nothing for it, when you pay nothing for it, what are you doing? You’re trading your privacy. So they’re not going to write Scott Schober bank account number. However, that metadata, data about me will make that correlation. And that’s where it’s really powerful. And we have to realize these companies are selling us as the product, and we have to use caution. So when we do use multifactor authentication, encryption, are cautious about what we share through our email, which is the most common way.

It’ll give us a much better cybersecurity posture.

Yeah, a lot of people sort of take that approach that, well, I used to fax this stuff, and it literally sits on someone’s desk on the other side. But you knew whose desk it was, right. Even if you didn’t know, at least you knew it went to a physical building, and they had a responsibility to shred it. Gmail. Not only did they not shred it, but they’re using it to design other things. They can sell to you via selling your information and meta-information. As you said, they’re not taking the content of your email and directly giving it away.

But they’re developing metadata about you as a persona to then sell to subscribers, vendors, et cetera. And there’s a reason why you get amazingly targeted advertisements. When you go to a website you’re like, oh, that’s funny. I was just looking up something about Subway sandwiches and also I’m getting ad for Subway, or I’m getting ad for Jersey Mike’s because they are buying competitive positioning against advertisement. And you’re like, how did they know so much? Well, you said or wrote it somewhere. Most likely or did a quick Google search.

We literally call it a Google search, right? Like at that point, you know, it by trade name.

And it’s true in so many other ways to your point. We’re so accustomed to what we call it a Google search. And I use Google. It’s great search engine. However, I also used DuckDuckGo. And there I can do searches. Not as good as Google. Honestly, they’re not as good, but they’re pretty good, but it gives a level of anonymity and privacy because again, they’re bouncing around the IP address. It’s encrypted and probably more important, they’re not selling my information, and hence other companies pushing ads toward me.

It really does is it allows me to control my digital footprint. I talk about that often each of us has a digital footprint. The more we put out on social media. The reason for social media. So we can be social. Talk about the trip we went on, share pictures of the kids or whatever else the case may be. But sometimes we’re too social on social media, and we’re giving little tells about our private lives that people can put together a picture of us and perform identity theft, hacking into computers.

All of those things are combination of things socially engineered, where they pick up a phone and garnish a little bit of information from the Secretary, maybe someone in our house innocently, slipped something. And next thing you know, they use all that to get into a computer network. That’s how a lot of these big breaches happen. Third party access, weak passwords, socially engineered phishing attacks. There’s lots of different ways. All the culmination of all of those together are effective means until they can get into that network, and then the game starts and they can really start accumulating stolen personal information and use it to their advantage.

And of course, that all ends up on the marketplace, the dark web, the underbelly of the internet, where they can sell these things and they can do it effectively, make money, stay anonymous and grow the criminal Empire.

You can tell when you’re sitting next to a security person, when you hear them, and they ask the question, like, what’s your mother’s maiden name? Metal four underscore underscore star, even the security questions. This is one of the challenges I often tell people. I’m like you want a basic to transpose the real thing. You don’t want to always use your actual mother’s maiden name. You want to have a key phrase that you may use and maybe add an Identifier to the particular service. There’s different ways you can approach it.

Scott, maybe if you want to talk about ways that we can protect ourselves, especially around those challenge phrases because they feel it’s secure automatically, but they can still be pretty laxed about it.

Yeah. And I think that unfortunately, the concept of security challenge questions when it initially came out was really good. The negative side is probably the specific questions are not unique enough to us to make it a true authenticator or another level of security, because really, security is achieved in layers, and that’s really the intent of it. I always use the analogy. We secure our homes. We don’t just have a simple doorknob lock that we turn, we have a deadbolt, we have an alarm, we have camera, we have those fake stickers that the place is patrol, so on and so forth to do what, to deter the thief, to move to the next house where the window is half open and they’re going to go rob that house.

Same thing in cybersecurity. We want to have these levels of security. So when a security challenge question comes up, what high school did you attend? Anybody can do a simple Google search and see. Scott Schober attended Edison High School, and that’s probably the answer he would use. I actually claim that it would be safer to use password 1234 as my high school that I attended, as opposed to the actual high school I attended. I know that sounds counterintuitive, but guess what? Somebody trying to hack into my account would not put password 1234 in there.

They’d be trying all the different high schools if they looked. Oh, he grew up in Edison. He probably went to Edison High or this high school or this high school, and they would guess it. Case in point, similar to this, a couple of years ago, I was presenting at a, this was a government security conference down in the Virginia area, and I had a keynote there. And also Kevin Mitnick, the world’s most famous hacker had a keynote. He actually invited me up on stage and he wanted to perform identity theft on somebody.

So he picked me out of this crowd of 400, 500 people. I was a little embarrassed and a little nervous going up on stage thinking, oh, gosh, what’s he going to do here? So I just said, Kevin, please go easy on me. I’ve read his books. I certainly follow him. He’s a great guy. He’s done some amazing things, good and bad, but any event. To start off, he simply looked at my badge and said, Scott Schober got on his computer, entered it in, pulled up information. He said a couple of simple questions because you just got to answer yes or no Scott.

Do you live at this residence? Yes.

Do you have another house here? Yes. Are you this old?


Is that your mother’s maiden name? Yes. Now I’m getting scared and he goes, okay, the final thing, I got to get your Social Security number pulled it up. Is that your Social Security number? I said, yes, that cost me one dollar. I got nervous. I said, oh, gosh. And then he goes the final piece to perform identity theft on Scott Schober, his date of birth and he goes, does a search and pulls up a screen. All said about 20 or so different entries for different dates of birth.

He goes, is that your date of birth? I said, no. Is your date of birth on the screen at all? I said yes. And one instance is correct, I’m not telling you what it is. And he kind of laughed. And he says, “You’re ruining my routine here”. I said one trick that I’ve always done is every site that I sign up for. I use a different date of birth, so I get different throughout the year, different reminders, Congratulations or happy birthday on all these different dates.

But that is used actually as something that I can control, and it helps keep me secure. So if somebody was going to do identity theft or say, take credit out in my name, they call the issuing bank, there’s a stolen credit card, this and that. And at some point the bank says, what is your date of birth? And the cyber criminal responds with the wrong date. Guess what? Conversation over phone hangs up. Security is in my control, and not all of us can do that. So simple things we can do that will help keep our cybersecurity posture much, much more secure.

Now, obviously, I have my credit frozen. I recommend that for everybody. Do it with the three major credit monitoring agencies. They talk between one another. Is it a pain? Yes.

And there’s always that trade off between security and convenience. If it’s not convenient, it’s probably more secure. And that’s what I do in all my cases when creating a password, when freezing credit or dethawing credit. Making cybersecurity decisions. I balance that. How secure is it versus how convenient it is? And I always try to err on the side of security. And that seems to help to keep me secure for the most of the time. However, that being said, as I mentioned, Eric, nothing is 100% secure. Despite my best efforts, I’m constantly targeted.

I have been hacked. I still receive repeated attacks. It’s just I got to keep up in my game and doing a better job to fight back. And we all do.

This is the challenge we face. As you said, it’s an opportunity crime like bicycle theft is purely about convenience of the availability of a crime. It is very rarely do they want to go out of their way to break into your garage to steal your bicycle. What they want to do is they wait by a place where a lot of students go for lunch. They are likely to forget their lock. They ride up, they lean it against the wall, they walk into the restaurant, they come back out three minutes later, no bicycle.

Especially even if it’s on the dark web. All this stuff like you said, they have to do it in bulk. It’s a systemized approach to the hack. So if your mother’s maiden name is password123. Even though, like I said, it sounds insecure, it’s not, because no one’s mother’s maiden name would be password123. So it will fail on a systemized hack. And unless they really want you in particular very badly, and they’re individualizing the attack, which. Let’s talk about that.

Scott, especially once you’ve been breached. Unfortunately, you go on a short list that often also gets shared, that hey, we have one. And they can show how you were exploited and then ultimately, at that point, then they begin to go a bit deeper. So talk about your own experiences there.

Yeah, a fair amount of security. The way I implement it, I call it security by obscurity, making it a little bit more challenging. In other words, I don’t do things that the normal person does. And again, I can’t recommend this for everybody, but I often will put it out there so people can just reflect upon it and think about it and make the personal choices that work for them to help them stay more secure in the world of this crazy cybersecurity. So since I’ve had my debit card compromising reissued a million times, I don’t use a debit card.

It’s inconvenient. It’s a pain, but I try to find that balance. I don’t have an Amazon account, but if I want to buy something for Amazon, I have other people that have an Amazon account that I will just pay them cash, reimburse them. So I do some things, too. I call it staying off the grid a little bit to keep it a little bit more secure. And I try to mix up my digital footprint, as we were mentioning before, using multiple search engines. I’d like to put in random things that have absolutely nothing to do with my interest or my desire every once in a while to throw curves out there.

And why? Because I always like to keep myself in check. And when you see a crazy ad pop up on your smartphone because you did a search on Google last week for a kayak. Now you’re getting pitched with kayak ads. You make that connection and say, yes, it’s still happening. So I even do things. And this is maybe the next level. I balance it on paranoia, maybe a little bit, just because of the things I went through. Yes, I shred documents. Maybe to a fault. I use a micro cross cut shredder that’s going to obliterate a 2000+ piece as the same as NSA groups will use to really make sure it’s impossible to take this confetti and put it back together.

I use when transporting files via computer to another computer. If I’m using it on a USB stick, I’ll actually use an encrypted stick. They’re cheap, they’re effective. They can have one that holds three terabytes. Works between Mac and PC. You don’t have to put a driver on there. You have a unique code that only you know, you enter it to lock and unlock the stick.

AES 256-bit encryption is on there. Somebody else tries it if I drop or the stick is stolen, it does a mission impossible and erases it. You can implement things like that. That’s about $60 for a base stick with enough memory on it to hold lots of documents. I’m controlling my cybersecurity. Do I use anti malware virus scanners, anti key loggers? Yes, I do. In reality, they only stop about 10% to 15% of the threats coming in because the threats continually evolve and there’s zero day threats. You can’t stop everything.

I patch all my software as quick as I can. iOS. I’m careful not to use a lot of different sites that I surf. I have different computers for different things, especially because I go out on the tour and go on the dark web. I’ll use a VPN to make sure my information is encrypted. Traffic is bounced around, so law enforcement doesn’t knock on my door and lock me up. Not that I’m doing anything bad. I do it more for research a lot of times finding stolen credit cards, identity and things like that.

I’ve even worked with several different media outlets. When we find that information, we’ll actually work together and report that to the authorities, number one and to the individuals that were compromised so they can take some solace that there is something they can do about it. And that’s important. Another tip I recommend a lot of people don’t do this that I think is very important. The dark web, I’ve mentioned that a few times. That’s where all this information, stolen credit cards, debit cards, bank account, passwords. That all ends up on the dark web in volumes that cyber criminals are selling.

They’re using cryptocurrency Bitcoin digital money, basically, so they can remain anonymous. And the dark web things are encrypted. The IP traffic is bounced around, so you don’t know where the criminals working from and the sites are not indexed. So it’s really hard to find the criminals. So when you think about those types of things, we have to be aware of it. And what I do is every month I scan my email addresses. I have about four email accounts that I primarily use. I send them to a company. It’s called Cyberlytics.

I am on the board of advisers there. They got a great product and they have an engine that basically crawls and is in the dark web looking. So if it sees my email account and it’s correlated to any of these breaches, it will alert me. And why is it so important? When you know right away that your email, your possible personal login, credentials to a particular site, say LinkedIn is compromised and you see the date of that breach, how many were affected and that you’re part of it.

Guess what? I go on to LinkedIn and I change my password and I think that’s more effective approaches being proactive as opposed to what many people have recommended. Change your password every three months. Statistically, actually, when you change your password every three months, it doesn’t actually make you any stronger. From a cybersecurity perspective, I argue and counter and say, actually, it creates a situation where it actually may be worse. It gives another opportunity where somebody could intercept that password where it’s being stored. You have to write it down, record it, put it in a password manager.

Again, another opportunity for somebody to hack in there, be it the conduit wireless, through the Internet, email reception part of a breach. Who knows? So just because you’re changing your password more frequently doesn’t make it more secure, but rather make a really long, strong password. Both characters or more will take a long time to compromise. And if it’s so obscure, you can’t remember it. My rule of thumb is that’s a good password. I write it down a physical black book. And again, layers of security as I was talking about Eric, lock the book in a safe, in a locked office, in a locked building with an alarm with cameras, layers of security.

Unlikely my little black book is going to be compromised. I also use keychain passwords for less secure accounts, but I need convenience when I’m traveling and then also, I’ll use a password manager. I personally use Dashlane. Great product. Good balance between security and convenience. It’s not too hard, it’s affordable, but it’s secure one password to remember your information. Your password list is encrypted, and hopefully it does never get compromised and someone can hack it and get your master password. So don’t ever write that down on a sticky note or leave that lying around because that’s the golden key to basically everything you own.

So you got to again balance and manage your security. And I always say, separate your really strong passwords, bank accounts, stock portfolios for US government login sites that’s kept near and dear to me, where I control that. Other ones that are more common and useful when I travel to speak or different events and things, they’re on a password manager. So again, I can control it. And I’m controlling the device that it’s on, and that device is secured and encrypted and backed up, which is very important.

So again, we need to unfortunately, spend a lot of time keeping our stuff secure.

There’s small things even to, like you said, the master password. Quite often. The issue we have is that somebody says, hey, I’m trying to protect my passwords. I’m going to use a master password that I definitely won’t forget, which is ultimately one of their actual passwords, which is probably floating about the dark web. And my suggestion to folks is often take a complex pass phrase. And like you said, don’t write it down, don’t put it in a spot, but put it in three spots or even two spots.

And you can even email part of it to yourself. And then in another area, get the other half. I used to do this in an organization that I was at. We had the top level root password for active directory as an example. I would have three different people create the password. I would create the first six characters. The next person would create the next six. Then the third person would create their six. We would each put our six characters into an envelope and then do this for three instances and then put them in different locations.

One goes to Iron Mountain, one goes to the opposing office, and one goes in a secured file cabinet. And when I first implemented this practice, people are like, this is a little crazy. I’m like, no, you can at any point in time. If I leave, you can recover a password. And if I leave, I don’t have the password. It’s ideal. So none of us have the complete understanding of the way to get in. Yet we all know how in a pinch we could collectively come together and get it effectively.

It’s like turning the two keys at the identical time in order to unlock the nuclear codes and such. But I had a greater responsibility to that corporation. But then I took those practices, and I kind of use that for my own. I’m a fan of Dashlane myself and the other one as well, and I won’t mention the name but people can click on the links below if they watch the YouTube. One of the supporters of the podcast is a VPN. I won’t say just because I don’t want to be like, Scott Schober supports this. Well, like, no.

So lots of VPN products are out there and people say like, well, I don’t look up things on the Internet that people, I wouldn’t be comfortable with people seeing him like, that’s not the point. It’s other things that go in transit with it, it’s other man in the middle attacks for just simple password. Simple.

You log in the email wherever you go, you go to Starbucks. So I have it on my phone and I have it on my laptop. And like you said, it seems like a hurdle. But once you do it two, three times, you just know. On my phone, it’s always on. As soon as it initiates the network, it’s automatically on the background. So I don’t have to be as concerned. Like you said, I love this layered approach. And in practice, when we do it, I think that starts to allay the fears.

Like I said, the same way that people know what ransomware is. If you, three years ago said, ransomware is a thing, people will be like, they just look at you strangely.

You’re going to take my child. Wait a minute.

Exactly. I’ve seen that Liam Neeson thing. Is that what you’re talking? That Liam Neeson movie? I searched about 17 Liam Neeson movies. But if we introduce these practices, it’s actually not terribly complex to do. And then it becomes part of your, you think harder about the next time you write a password somewhere. You think maybe I should be thinking about how I manage this and it becomes pervasive to other secure things. Like you said emailing. How many times do you do this right? They sent, a bank sends you a DocuSign, and then. Well, not a bank.

But somebody could send you a DocuSign to sign a job form, and then they ask you to email back your PDF unencrypted with your Social Security on it. Like, why did you make me DocuSign the thing?

Wait a second.

That’s supposed to be secured and marked and protected. But yet then you asked me for an incredibly powerful piece of information about my life over unencrypted email.

Yeah, and that’s why I tend to like to kind of work in the realm of that security by obscurity by doing things maybe a little bit unorthodox and different. So if someone is targeting me, it’s not going to be that clear what direction I’m going. And I like your analogy there about kind of dividing the password up and keeping it secure and having a way that you could still gain access to it. And then if you do leave the company, it doesn’t go with you. That’s a good balance.

That’s a brilliant example of why it’s so important to just think these things out, and I often encourage it till it becomes habit forming. Some people, you wash your car once a month. We need to do cybersecurity things that we make sure we follow that habit. Maybe you do a data backup. It should really be daily. But if you’re not doing anything once a month is better than nothing at all, especially if you’re a victim of ransomware attack. So implementing systems where you could be disciplined to follow structure that works for you so you can maintain it.

If it’s too complex. I’ve learned quickly people don’t do it. People are lazy, and that seems to happen again and again. I always comparing complacency with cybersecurity and trying to help people realize once you are a victim and hacked and compromised, it could be anything. It could be DDoS attacks. It could be your social media account, your credit card, or debit, your checking account. Once you go through the pain process of it, and it happens again and again and again. You say, I’m never going to go through this again.

You don’t want to go through a federal investigation when $65,000 is taken out of your checking account. It is not fun. It is time consuming. And if you’re running a business like myself, it’s taking away from that. So your whole sole focus is to get that money back and secure it. So it doesn’t happen again. And people don’t sometimes realize they hear it and say, oh, that’s a shame. Well, you were targeted that’s what you get. But you can prevent that. And then you can implement certain things to prevent it from happening again.

Like in that particular case, I sat down with my bank and understood through the investigation, who got the money, how much they got, which accounts they got it for, what it went for. I asked those questions and they’re required by law to tell me under a federal investigation. So it’s interesting understanding. And then how it happened through the bank, how they had access to my account. Somebody impersonated a teller, in a sense and digitally, how they can manipulate and take that money out from a wire transfer.

What did I do in response? I said, Well, from now on, no wire transfers can go out of our bank account unless I’m there in person signing for it and proof of my ID. So suddenly it puts up again, not convenient, but secured. Never had it happen since then. So sometimes you have to look at your personal situation and put in some security layers to make sure it stays secure. So you don’t fall victim to the cyber criminals, and they’ll just move on to the next target.

It’s not that they’re going to give up. They’re lazy. They will move on to the next person that has a password with a sticky note on their computer that doesn’t have a secure account that shares passwords, that doesn’t use multifactor, whatever the case may be. So I encourage everybody to do those things, but just realize once you start doing that, you’re not going to be targeted and victimized, they’re just moving to the next target. It’s a numbers game.

They prey on the fact that humans by nature, as you mentioned. Right.

And we know this, unfortunately. We don’t like friction. We don’t like additional rigor and processes. And yet when we are the victim of a breach or victim of anything. Right.

I know a lot of people that give up drinking every Saturday morning, but then they take it up very effectively on the next Friday night. So when you’re on the direct impact, other side of a personal breach or a fearful thing, and usually they think it’s some complex thing, like somebody with a balaclava and a mask over their face, sitting in a data center and like, no, it’s floating out there. It’s a list. It’s very easy. You get a text message and look, I get them all the time.

And it’s kind of funny because I know what it is. I know this is a phishing expedition, right? I know I get the email, but sometimes they’re good, and even I want to like, I’m going to make sure this is very well done. I want to just triple check how well this was made because they pick a bank that you’re a member of or a cellular phone company that you have an account with. And if you don’t know, it’s just very easy to, oh, the first thing that hits you is, oh, my goodness.

This thing says I’ve been breached. I need to change my password right away. And I used to test this with people all the time. In the Kevin Mitnick style, when I was at one organization, I would pick up the phone somewhere in the office, and I would say, hey, this is Pete from the help desk. I just need to double check if you shared your mainframe password with anybody recently, and they’d be like, no. Okay. I just need you to confirm what it is right now because we’ve seen it, and it looks like it may have been compromised, and they’d be like, and of course, you would use almost always something very simple.

But even if it wasn’t because they are now in fear that they are at risk. They say, it’s Pete from the help desk. It’s Monday123 or whatever they give to me. I’m like, okay, thankfully, that’s not what it is. So you shouldn’t have any problem. If you get any weird issues, then just change your password and photos of the help desk again. But they just see internal number. They save them from the help desk. I’m in fear that my account could be a problem.

I’m going to help them help me. And it worked every time Scott, that’s the scary part. I’m like this easy to do. But human nature was very easy to exploit.

I say it in a weird way. The beauty of social engineering. Since we’re creatures of habit, we’re trusting individuals. When we hear familiar terms and acronyms, especially in a particular space, we will divulge information very innocently. I look back a couple of years ago, we had a vulnerability assessment, done a penetration test at our company after we were hacked and compromised. And it’s interesting going over some of the stuff with the company. I thought, Jeez, we were hacked. Compromise, we take all these great stances and do this and that we’re 100% secure.

We’re going to get through this flying colors. There were still little areas that we were too close to that were identified. And one thing that they brought up, and I said, I’m curious when you guys go into other companies, typical company. How do you get in what’s your most effective way? And they said, well, for example, when they do a lot of work for law firms because they have a lot of personal information. They say, first thing we do is we don’t even go in the company.

We don’t even try to hack. We don’t even do anything. The first thing we do is pull up in the parking lot with some of our wireless tools, and we try to do a Wi-Fi hack, a lot of free tools. And there’s some that are very low cost you can buy. And oftentimes we start with a simple phone call. We spoof the number, we pretend we’re another law firm. We call the receptionist and tell her and say, oh, I’m so glad you got there. Hey, we’ve got this really important proposal.

We got to send it over right away to whatever the senior lawyer is there, Mr. Smith, but we don’t want to tell him we’re a little bit late. We’re so sorry, but this is important to him. Could you just give us the password for your Wi-Fi network so we could email it right over? This is really important. And you’re talking fast and you’re moving through it. And next thing you know, they’re like, he needs a password. Well, I know what that is. It’s password123 or whatever it is on a sticky note on the desk.

They innocently give it to him, even though that has no connection with emailing them this fictitious proposal. Now they’ve got the password to get into the Wi-Fi network, plant malware, work laterally, start gathering up personal information so that they can go to the CEO and say, hey, look, not only we get in compromises information, here’s the weak spot and how we got in sometimes we don’t realize it, but people innocently will give information to just somebody. That sounds very convincing. And that’s a huge caution. What’s the way to counter that?

It’s really just with security awareness training companies like KnowBe4 and many other companies educating people, having that formal process, making somebody an example or sharing some of these silly stories help them just to think and stop before they give out information. We’ve been targeted with them. One employee came up not too long ago and said, Scott, I got this strange email you’re giving gift cards out to all employees. And I heard about it by accident through this person. Are you really doing that? And am I really supposed to give them?

No, stop. Thank you for reporting. Even in security companies, it doesn’t matter. The company we can all easily give in if there’s certain things that sound very credible. And that’s to me when you got to stop right away, pause and say, Hold on, let me investigate it. Make a phone call, text, email, knock on someone’s door and say, hey, do you want to confirm this? And especially if they’re targeting an older population, seniors, the elderly are more prone to being targeted for things like that. Scams on the phone.

Email phishing attacks sounds too good to be true. It’s probably too good to be true. It’s not real. So we want to really pause and have a trusted individual where we could ask the question and just validate it to see if it’s a scam or not.

When a bank phones me or when I phone a bank or when they phone me, especially. And they say, hey, we just need to confirm your identity. And I say, okay, give me a number that I can phone back to get you. And I will do that. And they say, Well, it’s a collective bank. We can’t do that. I’m like, I have no way to confirm your identity, and they’re like, but you’re the one we need to confirm. I’m like, no, you see, that’s the interesting thing.

I know who I am, and I don’t know who you are. So if we can’t meet in the middle on this, no one’s getting confirmed today, and we’ll meet at another time. And it’s funny the resistance they have because they’re like, this is just in the same way that it’s irritating for me to have multifactor and write a password and multi parts and separate it. But it’s what I have to do. It’s what I’ve set. And in the same way, like you said, it goes beyond just raw technology.

This is not about hacking the Wi-Fi and breaking down keys and doing this stuff that we see sort of the Hugh Jackman Swordfish spinning around on a chair with 14 monitors and breaking into the mainframe, which I always laughed. It’s always the mainframe. But the truth is, technologists like yourself, like all your smartest engineers on your team, they’re fantastically good at what they do in the technology space. But if they get an email from what looks like their bank, ask them to fill out a W138 A, and it needs their social.

The bank teller knows as little about encryption key as you do about a W138 being not even a real form, right? The same way those lawyers, if you tell them, hey, you’ve got whatever some judgment thing coming up, you try and use their lingo at them. They will immediately say, hang up the phone. This is a fake call, but you tell them I need to get the Wi-Fi password because we haven’t been able to email you. They’re like, this is a thing I don’t know about, but it’s critical to my business.

Let me get you that password, and it’s very easy. Like I said, it’s just natural human behavior. I’m enthralled by the ability to exploit it, but frightened at the same time. It’s such a weird dichotomy of knowing that you can do it. But then knowing that there’s just so much we have to do to protect against it.

Yeah, it reminds me of a colleague in the space, a slightly parallel space. Frank Abagnale Jr. You’re probably familiar with the movie. A lot of people have seen that. I think it was Leonardo DiCaprio or whatever is the main character. And Tom Hanks in there, too. Loved the movie, but I had the privilege of going down to a security event. I won’t mention the company, but at this event he was the keynote speaker there, and he talked for a good hour plus, and afterward I got to go up and meet him and chat a little bit, and we exchanged contact information.

In fact, he was nice enough to write some praise about my second book, Cybersecurity Is Everybody’s Business. But I learned a lot from him from the standpoint of social engineering, not just from that movie, but understanding how it works from the mindset and understanding kind of who your target victim is going to be and understanding the key phrases, the word, the look and the feel and a sense of urgency. When you give a sense of urgency and authority to anything, you can breach right through. And nine out of ten people will let you through that secure spot.

We’ll trust you because we’re trusting individuals, and that’s good to say that. And I like that value and quality in people. But from the pessimist in the world of cybersecurity, that’s not a good thing. I always tell people trust nobody, unfortunately. Even those that are closest to you because those are the ones that are going to give little tells about how you can be compromised. And it’s a shame the world we live in right now is filled with cyber criminals, but they’re using that to their advantage.

So let’s not make it any easier for them, so they can socially engineer information out. Double check everything I often say with phone scams. If somebody calls up as you mentioned there and they claim they’re the bank fraud department and questioning transactions, you say, hold on a second. What’s your name and phone number in case we get disconnected, that’s a fair question to ask. What did you find out? Nine out of ten times. Click phone hangs up. Guess what? It’s a scammer. That tells you right there.

So simple things you can be proactive. Put the onus on them to give you a little bit of information. They’re not giving you anything proprietary or confidential. My name is John Smith. I’m with the Bank X-Y-Z fraud department. I could be reached at this extension. Okay, you jot it down. It’s probably more likely the bank if that’s the case, if they’re divulging some information and now you have something you can check and verify. I’ll go on Google and do a quick check, go on LinkedIn, throw their name up and say, oh, they do work at Bank X-Y-Z.

Okay, the number is not spoofed. Okay, this is legitimate. I did make this transaction. So you start to go through the process before you divulge anything that’s personal or private.

And I guess it’s probably apropos. I’m going to take your question. I’m going to give it to you, Scott, because I love to hear your take. What keeps you up at night? We’ve talked about a lot of things, and I love your content, especially Evan Kirstel was one of the ones the episodes I like. Evan’s a great guy. I really appreciate his content in general, as a good human. But what’s top of mind in your concerns these days?

Well, I do have so many one that kind of concerns me because I have gone down this path as everybody else is. I constantly go back to the world of IoT. I love innovation. I love technology. I love wireless, love cybersecurity, but I’m kind of at crossroads a little bit, because as I embrace new IoT, the latest camera, the latest watch, the latest iPhone, you name it and bring that into my home and to my car. I’m adding all these additional conduits for hackers to target myself, my company, my family.

So I’m always trying to think of ways. How do I prevent this from becoming a conduit from a hacker getting into my world? And it’s hard because with IoT products in general, they don’t bake the security in in the beginning because they’re focused on cost. Keep the cost down, not going to worry about firmware upgrades later. Make it secure when a vulnerability is discovered a year later in my Nest Thermostat or my Wyze camera or whatever else. So it’s hard to stay on top of those things and keep it secure.

So that’s kind of toward the top of my list. These IoT things. I have probably another ten items that follow, and I have some paranoia with some of the new smart cars of all 50 plus automobile manufacturers globally. They all put cellular modems in there.


A cellular modem is a great conduit to download malware into a car. And the average new car off the lot has over 100 ECUs in it. Engine control units that could then be used if they could commandeer and take over.

That scares me to death when you’re realizing that there’s the capability to do that. And only because I know researchers and I’ve talked to them, interviewed them and heard how they’ve actually manipulated or found back doors to some of these very secure smart vehicles. Those type of things are the things I think that keep me up at night. I don’t think I can solve them all. Some of the tools and technology that we do develop within my company is putting a dent in it, and I’m proud of that.

And I’m excited with that. And when it changes people’s lives, I’ll share a really brief story because I’m always very proud of this. This happened earlier this year. We develop one tool it’s used for hunting down cell phones not tied directly to cybersecurity, but security and really life and safety more toward. And we still sell these around the globe for various things, getting contraband cell phones out of prison, securing government facilities. But more recently, search and rescue because everybody carries a phone on us. We’re glued to our phone while in France earlier this year, French Alps at the base of it, there was a terrible avalanche.

Family escaped from it except the father. He got trapped and he was pinned up against a tree, had enough airspace to breathe for a while and had his mobile phone on. So he was safe, partially injured, but he had 2.5 meters of snow on top of him. They sent out a rescue team, 130 people in the village with sticks and calling and trying to find them in the ground. They searched for two and a half hours and couldn’t find him. They sent out search dogs to sniff.

Snow pack was too thick. They couldn’t pick the scent up through that deep thing. They walked right past the guy, through the whole area that was under avalanche. Somebody had the smarts to pull our tool out and said, hey, I got one of these Wolfhound-PRO used for search and rescue. Let’s try it, lit it up and right away. Boom signal. Pick up the guy’s phone, hunted it down with a direction finding antenna, called everyone back. The guys over here, dig, dig. They dug him. Miraculously, they found the guy, saved his life.

And it was a wonderful story. So sometimes when you hear about technology being used for good to stop the problems and tragedies that happen in life, it makes you feel good. Same thing about skimmers technology. We were talking about that earlier. A couple of years ago, I started investigating and reading articles. Brian Krebs does a great job, a reporter talking about a lot of the skimmers and how they get into gas pumps and ATMs. So I really took it on as a passion and started doing research.

And one thing I came across was all these problems are reported on and talked about, but nobody seems to have a solution for it. I sat there and said, this is frustrating. There’s got to be something. So we started developing and getting the engineer team involved here and did a lot of trial and error and research and different tests and things and then getting educated with National Weights and Measurements group, local law enforcement, Secret Service FBI and kind of brainstorming all that together. And I came up with a couple of different solutions we developed that are now we’re selling as tools.

And one of them is a simple tool called a Skim Scan. It’s a few hundred dollars. You slide it down the neck of a point of sale terminal that reads your debit card or credit card. And we simply look, if there’s a second read head in there. Green light, red light. Simple beeps and let you know, second head in there. Stop. Don’t use that ATM machine because there’s a skimmer in there. Same thing with a gas pump. So as I start to learn and investigate, I find out not just the vulnerabilities and weaknesses, but how to counter them with tools, sometimes, that are effective.

Same thing in the world of gas pumps. As I got educated on this, I realized how easy it is to be a cyber criminal. You buy a Bluetooth skimmer for very little price. You go on eBay, and then there’s six keys to open up a generic lock on the millions of gas pumps throughout the United States. You take the simple Bluetooth skimmer, plug it into the top of where the point of sale terminal is. You lock the machine 20 seconds. You’re in business.

Now, every time somebody pulls up to the pump and search their card. A second read head reads off that information, stores it in a buffer. Bluetooth set to be within 75 foot proximity to the cyber criminal. Now they go home and hundreds of credit cards each day from each gas pump. At each gas station, they burn them, they sell them on dark web and so on and so forth. They’re in business. So when you understand the inner workings of these cyber criminal gangs, you quickly learn why it is a multi billion dollar industry stealing credit cards.

And instantly we go to the gas pump and put our card and we buy $50. A gas transaction goes through. We move on. We never think about guess what? That’s where the credit card was compromised. Most people I talk to and this is funny. They say, Well, Scott, no, you don’t know what you’re talking about. I’ve got a chip and pin card. Look, it’s secure. And I usually counter that and say, okay, when you go shopping and you stick your chip and pin in front of the terminal, it is more secure than just a mag stripe alone.

I agree with you there. However, how often do you enter a pin in? And out of a room of 100 people, one or two people say, I do at Walmart or Target, I enter an actual pin as another layer of security. But guess what? Most people don’t. And just about all our cards still have the mag stripe on them. So when you put a mag stripe into anything and there’s a second read head, they got the CVV data. They got the golden key to compromise our information.

So just because there’s a perceived security measure on their chip and pin, which again, it is more secure, but it’s not fully implemented. Instead, what we have in the United States, I call it chip and signature, right? Because what are we still doing? We stick it in. It makes the connection secure. Encrypted this and that, and we sign for it. I could sign Mickey Mouse and guess what transaction goes through. Nobody’s validating that signature. That’s a problem. Yet look over in Europe and other countries, ten years ago, they were properly implementing chip and pin credit cards.

We are not. Still slow. Why are we doing it now? It’s because of the legislation. It’s because of the rules, the point of sale terminals. It shifts the liability down to the actual processor of it if they don’t upgrade the chip and pin. And that’s why we have it now. So for all the wrong reasons, it was implemented and it really started the conversation in 2013 with who? Target. Irony of it is Target was the first to actually test chip and pin technology. They were also the first to abandon it years back. Why?

Because it took a little bit longer to check out at the lines. So again, they chose convenience over security. And then they were the first major data breach as a result. So it’s kind of funny when we look back full scale. And in hindsight, we learn a lot of things about security and the importance of using layers of security and not being so focused on speed because you may pay in the end and the result of a data breach, it costs you for years and a lot of money, a lot of time and a lot of rebuilding of your brand.

Yeah. If it’s inconvenient to use a chip and pin, how inconvenient is it to reopen bank accounts and cancel every credit card and reinitiate every auto pay every bill pay. My favorite thing of this one to pull the thread on that story, too, is I’m Canadian. And so we’ve had chip and pin for eons, and it’s been kind of natural prior to that, though, when it was just purely signature card.

I actually went into a place one time and I got a brand new card, and so I go and the cashier says, oh, sorry, we can’t take this because it’s not a signature. You need to sign it. And I said, you can’t take it because you can’t validate the signature that you’re going to watch me do. And then I’m going to sign the second piece of paper the same way. And that’s validating what exactly. So what I would actually write on my signature section of the card was ‘Show ID’.

Yeah, that’s what I do on mine, too. Show photo ID.

And they would get really weirded out. They’re like, this isn’t the signature. You’re right, because you have to validate by my photo ID. I worked at a police station when I was younger, so I learned about a lot of things of how easy it was to. And I worked in retail. And so I knew sort of the regulatory boundaries they’re under in and little tips and tricks. But this is great.

I tell you, Scott, thank you. It’s been a real pleasure. You are a pleasure to chat with, and it’s really great. You’re prolific in so many ways. So of course you do daily radio. You’ve got three books. You’re a CEO of a company. Your a keynote speaker. Hopefully, the world opens up a bit more. We can see you on a stage again soon. But if you want to actually give a shout out as well for your radio spots, because I’ll have a link as well. But just let people know what it is you do around that.

Yeah, absolutely. I’m on Cybercrime Radio. It’s 24/7, 365 days a year, constant updates in the world of cybersecurity security. And I do several different segments. But one of the main ones I do every morning is really just the headlines. I take one story that kind of stands out, and I simply break it down and just kind of give a short minute and a half blurb about what the headline is, and it can be anything from ransomware, crypto, cyber attacks and I slip in their little tips and stats here and there also so people can stay safe. And it’s really enjoyable and it’s fast paced and you can even listen to it in the background on your computer if you do Internet radio and things like that.

But it’s Cybercrime Radio. So I’m a host of that segment and I do about two or three other segments as well. So throughout the week you’re going to constantly hear my voice sharing different tips, knowledge, headlines, you name it. Anything in the world of cybersecurity.

That’s great, and especially for folks that are getting into it. And I find this is, there’s a lot of people that are obviously leaning into the industry. It’s a burgeoning area of technology, lots of employment opportunities and learning opportunities. So I wanted to call it out. It’s a great place for folks to get in and make it a part of the routine and sort of introduce the nomenclature and start to get tapped into what’s going on, and it, hopefully, will lead them to ultimately get into.

Like I said, maybe we can see them at a BSides or other things around. There’s lots of great community events. And actually, if you don’t mind, Scott, I’ll add one more question, what’s a great place for people to go or if they wanted to get started in the world of InfoSec and cybersecurity, what are some sort of freely available or community accessible resources that you’d recommend?

Tons and tons of, if I may encourage people if you want to just meet individuals, get a knowledge base. The headline Cybercrime Magazine, part of that on their CSO and chief media commentator. But there’s tons of information that you could download videos to watch radio segments that you can hear. It’s a really good educational part. I’m a part of a whole bunch of other shows. Also, I do a monthly show on Computer America where I spend 1 hour dissecting different cybersecurity breaches and discuss that. It’s over video so you can look back at past episodes, that’s Computer America.

I think there’s so many endless sites and a lot of the events I’m associated with FutureCon, SecureWorld. You name it. RSA, Black Hat. I go to those events, so hopefully our paths will cross somewhere we can meet in person somewhere. Great sources to learn things, and even some of the smaller shows like you mentioned. BSides, ShowMeCon. I’ve been to shows like that and I’ll do presentations there. I really enjoy it. Next week I have one out in Iowa. It’s called CornCon.

It’s a little strange name, but interesting. They do a lot of hacking events, their education for children starting at a young age. I think that’s really important, the math and science aspect that young ones early on learn that and especially for women. Women are really needed in the field of cybersecurity because we got a lot of great, brilliant women doing cybersecurity stuff, but it’s only a tiny portion of it. So I always shout out there and say, women, if you’re interested, looking for a great career that you really needed, you can do well financially, but especially the challenge.

Think about cybersecurity. There’s so many great niches there where you can actually lend a hand and actually make a huge difference in keeping this world safer.

Yeah, that’s a great point. And especially now, I think we’ve learned and we’re beginning to act better as a community. The technology community has not always been very welcoming, still challenging for folks, especially women, folks from underrepresented communities. But there’s so much that we’re doing to make that better, and we just have to keep on it. So as you said, great opportunity. Scott, thank you very much. And for folks that want to reach out directly to you, what’s the best way they can get in contact?

They can certainly check out the stuff we’re doing in my company. It’s simply our website, dvsystems.com or my name scottschober.com. In there, there’s tips that you can download for free. I have white papers there, information about books, speaking appearances, interviews, you name it, feel free to peruse that, and hopefully it’s helpful in keeping you safe and feel free to reach out to me. There’s a fill out form there. I do actually respond. It’s not a robot that responds. I actually respond in person and get tons of requests for advice on products, recommendations, good versus bad in the world of cybersecurity.

And I’m happy to share anything there at no cost. If I can be encouraging to people, I just put that out there. I’m used as a resource for many people and companies around the globe.

Excellent. Well, thank you very much. It’s been a real pleasure to share time.

Thank you so much, Eric. Stay safe, everyone.