One of the things that's very difficult to do is to get a handle on someone's technical capabilities. That's where even just talking about it isn't necessarily going to get it done. For some of the technical hires I've sent to my labs team, I tend to leverage what our engineering team does and that is to use the Mount Fuji process that I think was invented at Microsoft [presenting puzzles and challenging questions]. That can drive out technically weak people, which I think is extremely important because hiring someone who isn't a right fit can cost you 12 to 14 to 24 months. It's just awful.
Hiring someone for the CTO office, we'll have so much back-channel information on them and what we know about them from other people that I've actually established a really good understanding of who they are, so the interview process becomes more about finding out if they would fit culturally with our group.
It becomes a matter of asking them about situations where they've dealt with conflict, how they've dealt with it, how successful they are in a team environment, where they've been thrown into situations where they haven't had as much information, how they dealt with situations where they're out of their depth or their comfort zone.
I don't know of any answers that throw up red flags. It would be more like you get a feel for how that person responds and how they deal with those situations. For instance, early in my career I had never trained anyone in my life and I had to go down to Annapolis one time and train 20 people there about our product. I was a developer, I'd never trained anyone, so I had to go and get the experience of training. I got through it and it was really unpleasant, but I got through it and I learned from it.
8. What is it about your current job, at this particular company, that sets it apart from other chief technology positions?
I don't run our engineering team. The CTO of Ping's role is much more focused on product strategy and customer strategy, much more outbound. It's our job to protect us from sidewinder missiles that could take out the company. We're out there thinking ahead 18 to 24 months about what are the opportunities and what are the threats.
Our industry has become so big and diverse and grown so quickly that I think it's unusual that a company our size has both a CTO Office and a Labs team, and has been willing to invest in that and in thought leadership to make sure that Ping is always going to be well-prepared and thinking ahead. Having nine people in the CTO team is a big investment and we take it seriously because we want to be sure we're going to be servicing our customers not just today but in five years time and 10 years time.
9. What do you do to unwind from a hectic day?